Tri-City wins defensive battle with Omaha

05/11/02 Kearney Cyberhub
KEARNEY — Surprising as it sounded Thursday, Tri-City Diesel coach Leland Skeen said he wanted the Omaha Beef to throw the football.

Skeen wanted Omaha's option-specialist quarterback Tory Veland to put the ball in the air rather than hand off to former Husker I-back Clinton Childs. And Skeen's plan work.

The Diesel defense held the Beef (5-2) to 15 rushing yards on 23 carries while forcing Veland into 27 passing attempts. Veland completed only nine of his passes and the Diesel (3-5) earned a 26-19 win Friday, their first victory over an in-state rival.

"People probably thought I was crazy when I said I wanted them to throw against us. But our game plan was to make Veland throw the football, and it worked for us tonight," Skeen said.

Friday's win erased from the Diesel's memory a 37-20 loss to Omaha on March 29.

"They are a much better team than when we played them the first time," Omaha coach Sandy Buda said. "They took the fight to us tonight."

In the first half, neither team could get much going offensively. Tri-City mustered a pair of Darin Tankersley field goals, while the Beef scored a second-quarter touchdown and added a Brandon Stewart field goal for a 9-6 halftime lead.

Stewart gave the Beef a 12-6 lead early in the third quarter before the Diesel offense finally found the end zone. Quarterback Justin Coleman, who played Friday with a special cast on his broken left hand, delivered a 13-yard strike to Sherman Jones. After Tankersley missed the extra point, the teams were tied at 12-12.

"I practiced with my cast twice in practice, and things went good. I was more worried about the snap than anything else," Coleman said.

When the Diesel defense held Omaha to three offensive plays on their next possession, Coleman struck again. Threading a five-yard touchdown pass to Mitch Ables, Coleman and the Diesel had their first lead of the game since leading 3-0.

Omaha threatened on its next possession, getting the ball as far as the Tri-City 1-yard line. But stuffing Childs and Veland on consecutive running plays preserved the Diesel's lead — momentarily.

On second down from his own 5-yard line, Coleman fumbled after being hit from behind by Dwayne Harris. Omaha's defensive end Paul Hawley scooped up the bouncing ball on the goal line to suddenly tied the score, 19-19.

"We did have a couple little mistakes that gave them an opportunity to stay in the ball game," Skeen said.

Coleman bounced back by connecting with Ables a second time in the end zone to put the Diesel back on top by seven.

And the Diesel defense took it from there. Twice during the final three minutes, the Tri-City defense denied the Beef's offense. Omaha's final offensive play, a completed pass followed by a lateral, ended with Childs being pushed into the boards.

"We (the defense) rose to the occasion tonight," said the Diesel's leading tackler, linebacker Eric Ryan. "They wanted to run and we made them throw. We also proved to ourselves that we can win the close games."

"This is a weight off our shoulders," Skeen said. "We were beginning to wonder when things were going to go our way."

After three consecutive home games the Diesel will be back on the road next weekend against Rapid City on Saturday.

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