Preisman Pre-Cap: Westside


Brendan Priesman, Jay Journal Sports

It’s been a crazy 10 months (though it feels more like 10 years) since the most recent episode of the Preisman Pre-Cap, and while almost everything else in the world has changed, 2 things haven’t: #6 Prep will face #1 Westside in football, and both teams still really want to beat each other.  

This is now a Week 1 game instead of a game in late September, but that shouldn’t affect things much.  Prep’s best (and only) football preview is back, and we’re diving straight into Prep’s biggest rival.  The last 3 Prep-Westside games have all been Westside blowouts.  In 2018, a 37-2 loss (a year removed from a dramatic 45-40 win) was over by the second quarter.  In 2019, Westside made the Junior Jays their homecoming opponent and won 49-21 thanks to 4 touchdowns in the second quarter (and 6 total from quarterback Cole Payton).  As if that wasn’t enough, the Junior Jays also met the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, and the Warriors won 49-13, thanks to 4 touchdowns in the third quarter.  This year, though, could be different.  

Westside still has their stars in Payton and Minnesota commit Avante Dickerson, but Prep has some fresh faces in junior running back Jack Stessman (injured the last two years) and new quarterback Parker Leise, a sophomore transfer from Elkhorn South.  

Last year, the Junior Jays had a hot start but crashed down to earth in the back half of the year, finishing with a record of 6-4 after starting 6-1.  Blowout losses to Millard South (46-23) and Elkhorn South (42-14) in the 2 weeks before the state playoffs really put a damper on the season.  However, this year, Prep gets the toughest part of their schedule out of the way early.  4 of Prep’s first 5 games are against top 10 teams (including 2 away games), and 2 of those teams played in last year’s title tilt (Westside and Class A champion Bellevue West).  After that, though, no other team on the schedule finished above .500, so Prep will have a much lighter slate in the back half of the season.  

As for Westside, they bring back the two most important parts of an offense that averaged over 38 points a game last year in Dickerson and Payton.  Dickerson is known for his blazing speed and Payton is also a great player in his own right, as evidenced by his 6 touchdowns against Prep in their first matchup last season.  The Warriors’ schedule is a bit fragmented due to OPS canceling fall sports, but they do match up against Millard North and Grand Island later in the season.  The Warriors are a state title contender, and if they manage to fill out their schedule, 11 or 12 wins (including playoffs) is a very real possibility.

For the game itself, I see Westside emerging victorious for the fourth time in a row.  Both Payton and Dickerson had rushing touchdowns of 60 plus yards against the Junior Jays last year, and that was against a secondary anchored by mostly seniors.  The Prep offense is also in question after the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart last year graduated, and with Vinny Cacioppo (last year’s leading rusher), out for an indefinite length of time with a dislocated elbow, the run game may take a hit, but Stessman is healthy to start the year.  The returning seniors like AJ Rollins, the star tight end, Pat Foley, the clutch kicker, and the great linebacker core should help Prep make some noise this season.  In the end, Westside is talented enough to win the state championship this year. That could bear itself out on the field on Thursday night.

Prep does have a road map to win this game.  The 2017 game, while being a classic, could also be a prelude to a Prep win.  If the Prep offense lights up the turf and scores almost every time down, they’ll be able to keep pace with the Westside offense.  After they do that, and if Prep can avoid turnovers, and if Dickerson and Payton are shut down in the big moments, then the Junior Jays will win the game. 

My final prediction is 35-14 Omaha Westside.

Some quick plugs: make sure to stop by the Student Council watch party tonight, and check out Commentator’s Corner, my sports podcast with Tyler Reidy.