Westside Varsity Football Team Wins State Championship

Westside Varsity Football Team Wins State Championship

The 2020 Westside Warrior varsity football team is the Nebraska Class A State Champion. On Friday, Nov. 20, the Warriors defeated fifth-seeded Elkhorn South 37-21 in the state championship game at Phelps Field, making it their fourth-ever state championship title and their first since 1982. Nebraska safety commit Koby Bretz, who combined for 158 total yards and a touchdown on the night, acknowledged the aspect behind the win.

“It’s history, history in the making,” Bretz said. “We’re so happy to be in the position we are in right now. I can’t thank the coaches enough, I can’t thank my teammates enough because we’ve all made a hell of an effort this season.” 

Throughout the season, the Warriors have shown their offensive prowess compared to their opponents.  Putting up a season total of 4,650 yards on offense, the Warriors’ skilled position players have been their main strength and have shown promise ever since the start of their careers.

“Freshman year we knew that we had a very talented class, and we just had to finish the job and show that we are not all about talking,” Bretz said. “So we wanted to come and prove our point and get on Champions Plaza.”

After a runner-up trophy in last year’s state championship game, the Warriors came into the season hungry for another opportunity for a title.

“The day after we got beat last year in the state championship, day in and day out, we’ve been busting,” senior Quarterback Cole Payton said. “There are so many people rooting for us. We’re not only playing for our brothers next to us, we are playing for the whole Westside community.”

Payton, committed to North Dakota State, passed for 218 yards, rushed for 129 yards along with five touchdowns on Friday night to help lead the Warriors to the win. In his final game as a Warrior, Payton said he feels the support of the Westside community has helped him make a legacy at the high school.

“This is the best school, the best program, the best place to be in District 66, and I’m just so happy for all of the guys and so proud of everybody,” Payton said. “It wouldn’t have happened without the community, either. The wave behind the red and black is huge and that’s why I love this place.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing there to be no spring sports last season, there were many questions as to how the season would be played, if even at all.

“We went day by day,” Head Coach Brett Froendt said. “We planned for the season, we kept the hope and we knew we had this as our ultimate goal. Until they told us to shut down, we were going to strive for this night right here and we made it.” 

With cases spiking throughout Lancaster County in recent weeks, all six state championship games normally played at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln were moved to the field of the higher-seeded team in each class. For some, the inability to play at the storied Memorial Stadium was a loss but for the Warriors, it seemed to keep them focused.

“Obviously Memorial is a great place to play but I feel like last year there were distractions before the game,” lineman Bo Lucas said. “Everyone [was] taking pictures and just being excited to be there. At the end of the day, it’s just another football field that’s 100 yards long to get to the end zone, and I don’t think we went in there with a mindset of ‘it’s a business trip’ and at Phelps Field, it’s just like any other week.”

Brett Froendt, in his 12th year as the Warriors head coach, has become just the third coach in school history, along with Bill Hoyt and Dan Young, to take home the state title. With two runner-up finishes in his first 11 years, Froendt said what it felt to finally get that gold medal.

“A lot of satisfaction,” Froendt said. “With the coaching staff, most of us [are] still intact, it’s been a long journey and it’s been a fun one. We’re a successful program every year, but to get to this point it’s special to make history.” 

Led by 24 seniors, the Warriors have been pushed throughout the year by their mental preparation and leadership. For Froendt, it couldn’t have been a better way to cap off his players’ high school careers.

“So grateful for the coaching staff that I have and how hard these kids worked and stuck with it,” Froendt said. “It’s not easy to go wire to wire. It’s not easy going undefeated, and they did it. They never wavered, they never questioned, they were just a great group of individuals.”