Sam Nelson sat on the sidelines three years ago as South O’Brien was blitzed by St. Edmond in state playoff action.
Nelson, now a senior, made sure Friday night would be much different, running for 212 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Wolverines over the Gaels, 27-6, inside Dodger Stadium.
South O’Brien (2-2 overall, 2-0 in Class A, District 2) ended the night with 60 carries for 268 yards, scoring a defensive touchdown and putting together long drive after long drive to zap any momentum the Gaels (1-3, 0-2) tried to create.
“Our youth showed up once again,” SEHS head coach Dick Tighe said. “There is just no replacement for experience. There’s nothing that can prepare these kids for Friday night except going out and playing. Sometimes things go your way and you come out on top, and other nights end up like this.
“But I saw more positive from this game than I did (last week vs. MMCRU). That’s something we can build upon moving forward.”
Nelson has now eclipsed the 100-yard mark in three straight games, bringing his season rushing total to 578. He played quarterback last year for South O’Brien, running for just 247 yards on the season.
“He was a really strong kid and we couldn’t bring him down at the point of contact,” Tighe said. “Especially in that first half, he was really pushing through our defense. I thought in the second half, we did a much better job of tackling.
“I was really pleased with Sean Newell and Charlie Shelly on the defensive side of the ball. They were in on a lot of tackles.”
Over the opening 24 minutes, Nelson ran 21 times for 114 yards, including a pair of short touchdowns. He wasn’t stopped for negative yards until his ninth carry of the night, and ended up being brought down behind the line of scrimmage just twice in all.
Drew Faust capped off the Wolverine scoring with a late 1-yard plunge, while Carson Louscher picked off an errant Andrew Gibb throw and returned it for a score. South O’Brien held an 18-7 advantage in first downs and out-gained St. Edmond 300-175.
The Gaels avoided their first shutout since the 2013 title game loss to Iowa City Regina when Cade Naughton scored as time expired. They have not been held scoreless in the regular season since a 20-0 loss to Southern Cal (now South Central Calhoun) in 2006.
“I know it didn’t change the outcome, but that score was big for our confidence,” Tighe said. “We completed a couple of nice passes and it just gives the kids the added confidence that we can get this corrected moving forward.”
Gibb finished 3-for-12 for 52 yards, including a pair of completions to Will Woodruff for 46 yards. Shelly, a freshman, had career highs in rushing attempts (17) and yards (88), including a 41-yard jaunt in the third quarter.
Next up for the Gaels is Homecoming on Friday against Ridge View. The Raptors (3-1, 2-0) defeated Hartley-HMS last night, 28-0, South O’Brien hosts Sioux Central (2-2, 1-1), a 37-0 winner over MMCRU.