Preisman Pre-Cap: Westside Week



QB John Coniglio checks the line before the snap. The senior was chosen as this week’s WOWT’s High School Athlete of the Week.

Brendan Preisman, Jay Journal Sports

#9 Creighton Prep (Last Game: 31-30 win over Millard North) attempts to keep their unbeaten season alive on Friday night. To do that, they’ll have to go through 3-1 #6 Omaha Westside (Last Game: 41-0 win over Gretna). In the rivalry game of the year, two title contenders will fight for bragging rights and a statement win. Last year the Warriors stunned the Junior Jays, winning 37-2, but this year is shaping up to be different. This is what to watch for.

The Warriors came into this season with high expectations after going 8-1 last year and making it into the state quarterfinals. So far they have lived up to the hype. Despite a fairly weak schedule (only one team with a winning record so far), Westside has impressed enough to gain a ranking of #6 in the Omaha World Herald. Their only loss this year was to #5 Lincoln Southeast.

Westside has enjoyed 3 victories, winning by an average margin of 36.7 points per game. The defense is stacked, allowing just 9 points a game, and the offense isn’t too shabby, averaging 35.3 points a game.

You can’t talk about Westside without talking about Avante Dickerson, their junior RB/CB. He is considered the top recruit in the state of Nebraska by 247sports and ESPN. He is also 36th in the 2021 ESPN 300. Dickerson’s 40 time is a 4.3 and his shuttle time is 4.18. His top end speed leads to great results when dropping back in coverage or taking a handoff. Junior Jays fans should know his name, as he had a pick-six last year in the 37-2 rout vs. Prep.

Westside isn’t all Dickerson, however. The offense is led by junior QB Cole Payton, whose favorite target is senior WR Grant Tagge. The defensive line is also very solid, with junior DE Cade Haberman and senior NG Jackson McMillan both weighing upwards of 270 pounds. This Westside unit is a tremendous all-around team that has more than earned its number 6 ranking.

Last week, the Junior Jays played their best quarter of the year, outscoring Millard North 21-0 in the 4th quarter to come back and win 31-30. The victory moved them to 4-0 on the year, but with no convincing victories (3 wins by 4 points or less) their ranking has remained at #9. The Junior Jays have not started a season 5-0 since 2008 (the team’s most recent undefeated regular season). However, this roster is filled with players who are looking to bring the Junior Jays their first state title since 2004.

The team leader (and reigning WOWT high school athlete of the week) is senior QB John Coniglio. Coniglio is having a terrific senior year-and his stats on the season reflect that. Coniglio has thrown for 582 yards and 9 TDS on a 51.6 completion percentage (49/95). He’s also contributed heavily in the ground game, with 38 carries for 150 yards and 1 TD.

The team’s leading rusher is junior Vinny Cacioppo, who has 34 carries for 227 yards and 2 scores. Mason Armstead, the senior captain, is the team’s leading receiver, with 23 catches for 317 yards and 4 touchdowns (47% of the completions, 54% of the yards, 44% of the TDs). Junior TE AJ Rollins has also pitched in to the passing game, with 6 receptions for 88 yards and 2 TDs.

The Junior Jays have proven quite adept at coming back from deficits in the second half. At halftime, the Junior Jays were down-14-7 to Omaha North-and 17-10 to Omaha Central. Against Millard North, they were down 30-10 at the end of the 3rd quarter. In the second half, Prep has outscored their opponents 55-26. In the 4th quarter/OT, the gap is even more pronounced, currently standing at 38-0.

There are 2 big questions for this game. The first is: Will Prep be able to adjust if Armstead is blanketed by Dickerson? The second is: Will Prep be able to be better than Westside in the second half, especially if faced with a big deficit? If the answer to the first question is yes, than Prep will keep the game interesting. If the answer to the second question is yes, than Prep could force OT. If the answer to both is yes, then Creighton Prep has a real shot at winning this football game.

I spoke to senior wide receiver Johnny Mcleay, and he told me why the Westside game is so special.

“They’re always telling us how much they don’t like us, and we feel the same way about them,” Mcleay said.

I asked him what the final score would be, and he kindly obliged:

Johnny Mcleay’s final prediction is 31-24 Creighton Prep.