Thursday games are a novelty for most teams. Not for Norfolk High School.
The Panthers will play Thursday night for the second week in a row as it hosts Omaha South at Memorial Field, one week after Norfolk broke into the win column with a 35-20 triumph at Lincoln Northeast.
Thursday nights haven’t always been kind recently to the Panthers, who had lost four of its last five, including both last season.
Norfolk’s last Thursday win was Sept. 28, 2017, when it posted a 41-6 triumph over Bellevue East, which is also the team’s most recent home Thursday victory. That came after the Panthers dropped back-to-back Thursday games earlier that season.
Before that, the trend lines were much more encouraging: The Panthers went from Sept. 19, 2013, until Aug. 31, 2017, between losses in Thursday games.
The Panthers won six Thursday games in a row between 2014 and 2016 — and Norfolk scored 45 points in each of its two 2016 Thursday home wins.
For those curious, and I was after finding out the relative frequency of Thursday night matchups, Norfolk’s last regular-season Saturday game was Oct. 5, 2013, when it lost 26-20 in overtime at Lincoln Southeast.
So, as odd as it may sound, Norfolk should feel right at home playing under the Thursday night lights.
Last week’s results
Records: 9-1 last week, 31-9 season, .775 winning percentage. I’ll take an 18-2 record over a two-week span anytime.
How city teams fared: It might be hard to believe, but the explosive Lutheran High Northeast offense that scored 55 and 87 points its first two weeks scored the fewest points out of city teams last weekend. Norfolk High outscored Lincoln Northeast (13-10 predicted, 35-20 final), while Norfolk Catholic showed some promise in falling to Class C No. 2 Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur (30-17 predicted, 40-32 final). In contrast, Lutheran High (40-36 predicted) was gashed often by Wakefield (58-24 final).
Highlights: Being just three points away from the Kansas City Chiefs’ win over the Baltimore Ravens (34-30 predicted, 33-28 final) and four points away from having the Laurel-Concord-Coleridge victory over Osmond (44-20 predicted, 40-20 final) forecast perfectly makes for a good week.
Lowlight: The only game guessed wrong was Wakefield going all Wisconsin on Lutheran High Northeast (Lutheran High 40-36 predicted, Wakefield 58-24 final). Seriously, who else can have one player rush for more than 400 yards against a ranked team?
Other results (predictions in parentheses): Battle Creek 30, O’Neill 0 (28-13); Pierce 50, Columbus Scotus 21 (30-14); Nebraska 42, Illinois 38 (41-16); Augustana 26, Wayne State 13 (29-21); Houston 27, Los Angeles Chargers 20 (21-20).
This week’s predictions
Omaha South (3-1) at Norfolk (1-3): For the second week in a row, the Panthers will take the field under the Thursday night lights, this time at the friendly confines of Memorial Field. Don’t be deceived by the Packers’ record — it includes blowout wins over 0-4 Omaha Bryan and 0-4 Omaha Benson, and their one loss came to 1-3 Lincoln North Star. Norfolk 24, Omaha South 20.
Norfolk Catholic (0-4) at Crofton (0-4): For the first time this season, the Knights will be facing a team that is not listed among the top 10 statewide in Class C2. Should the visitors focus on the task at hand and take care of business, expect Norfolk Catholic to take advantage of the opportunity. Norfolk Catholic 24, Crofton 21.
Class D No. 2 Howells-Dodge (3-0) at No. 5 Lutheran High Northeast (2-1): It isn’t just that the Eagles lost to Wakefield that’s concerning — it’s how they lost, compounded by injuries. Who wins the battle of the previous No. 2 (Lutheran High) against the current No. 2? Howells-Dodge 40, Lutheran High 30.
Class C No. 6 Wayne (3-1) at No. 1 Pierce (4-0): Who would have guessed that, after nondistrict play, the Blue Devils would be the top contenders for the Bluejays atop District 4 of Class C1? Wayne got a thrilling double-overtime win over Columbus Lakeview, while Pierce cruised past Columbus Scotus. Pierce 42, Wayne 20.
Class D No. 6 Neligh-Oakdale (3-0) at Laurel-Concord-Coleridge (3-0): The visiting Warriors have won by an average of 54-23.3, while the host Bears have won by an average of 40.6-13.3. But when the opponents’ records are a combined 3-15, those numbers don’t help much. A win would likely put LCC in the ratings, but will it happen? Neligh-Oakdale 34, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge 32.
Class D No. 8 Bloomfield (3-0) at No. 9 Allen (3-0): This could be, by far, the biggest test of the season for both teams to date. In light of that, do you give the edge to the team that has faced even a little bit tougher schedule to date? That might be the difference; then again, it might not matter at all. Bloomfield 38, Allen 34.
No. 5 Ohio State (4-0) at Nebraska (3-1): There are a litany of reasons to pick Ohio State. It’s a top-five team. It’s an 18-point favorite. It’s scored 56, 62 and 63 points in past meetings with the Huskers. It averages more points and yards offensively and gives up fewer points and yards defensively. At last check, ESPN’s “Matchup Predictor” is giving the Buckeyes a whopping 89.8% chance to win Saturday. No metric gives Nebraska much of a chance. Except ... Nebraska 38, Ohio State 35.
Concordia-St. Paul (2-1) at Wayne State (1-2): Both teams are coming off their lowest-scoring games of the young season, with the Wildcats suffering a 26-13 loss to Augustana and the Golden Bears dropping a 29-3 contest against preseason favorite Minnesota State. Wayne State 24, Concordia-St. Paul 23.
New England (3-0) at Buffalo (3-0): The Bills have allowed an average of 15.7 points per game. I’d take that kind of scoring defense. But then I see that the Patriots have outscored their opponents 35.3-5.7 (yes, that’s less than a touchdown) on average through three games. That’s just obscene. New England 35, Buffalo 23.
Minnesota (2-1) at Chicago (2-1): The Bears probably feel encouraged after taking a 28-0 halftime lead en route to Monday’s win, but let’s be honest — the Washington Redskins’ defense is not the same as the Vikings’ defense that he’ll be facing Sunday. Minnesota 29, Chicago 26.