Here we are, folks. Our final class ratings until the season’s over. There’s a lot to get to in each class, especially with the D1 and D2 playoffs just days away. Let’s start with a notable omission in Class C.
For the first time in what feels like eons, Pierce is not in the Class C ratings. The Bluejays have relied too much on winning shootouts even against teams one would expect them to handle easily. Once Battle Creek took their offense away, the Bluejays had no answers. If Mark Brahmer’s squad has anything left, now’s the time to use it. If not, the Bluejays will be checking in their gear unusually early.
The team that beat them, meanwhile, is starting to get more of the little things done.
Heading into Friday, Battle Creek had lost three of its last four games and needed a win against the defending Class C1 champs to get back into the playoffs. A loss would all but certainly leave the Braves out. To get there, they would need to clean things up offensively.
“We want to run the ball and when we run the ball effectively, it allows us to play action and pass at a high percentage, and that’s something we weren’t doing,” coach Andrew Carlson said. “Committing penalties and bad spots in the red zone. You name it, it was just a lot of self-inflicted things.”
Those mistakes were seemingly nowhere to be found on Friday as Carlson’s squad rolled to a 24-6 win. The Fightin’ River had 230 team rushing yards and 140 through the air, including three passing touchdowns to three different receivers. Many performed well, but it was Trent Uhlir’s game that really stood out. The sophomore running back/linebacker led the team with 22 carries for 107 rushing yards. He even added a 6-yard touchdown pass for good measure.
“Trent’s an outstanding football player,” Carlson said. “He’s a big, physical back, has good vision and runs very hard.”
Defensively, the Braves held Pierce to its lowest point total since the 2019 C1 state title game. It came thanks in large part to three sacks and two interceptions from a defense that allows just 13 points a game.
“We did a pretty darn good job of limiting big plays. Pierce has a very explosive offense, and I thought we did a good job of limiting those big plays,” Carlson said “They still had some, but we limited what they had been doing the previous weeks.”
The Braves now control their own playoff destiny with one more game at North Bend Central still ahead. In that game, and whatever may come next, Carlson wants Battle Creek to keep the efficiency going and avoid little, yet crucial, mistakes.
“I’m not trying to take away from the games where we’ve been beaten this year, but we’ve kind of been our own worst enemy in most of those games,” he said. “When we stay on schedule, when we limit big plays and tackle well and we do a good job in the special teams and we limit turnovers, we’re a pretty good football team.”
Boone Central, the last remaining undefeated area team in Class C, fell to Columbus Scotus 21-12. As a team, the Cardinals ran for just 120 yards and didn’t find the end zone. It’s a tough loss, but not a debilitating one. They still hold the No. 2 spot in the wild-card ratings. However, Scotus, Kearney Catholic and Chadron — all of whom are undefeated —hold spots three through five, respectively, and could jump them even if the Cardinals win this week. We’ll see what happens, but until then, a road trip to O’Neill awaits on Thursday.
Norfolk Catholic started off down 7-0 in the first quarter but went on to score the next 28 points in a 41-13 win over Crofton. Kanyon Talton and Mason Timmerman had two and one rushing touchdowns, respectively. This improves a rushing attack that was already potent. The Warriors’ ground-and-pound offense led by Jimmy Allen is a sneak peek for what the Knights will see next week in a regular-season finale with Hartington Cedar Catholic. Like last year, this showdown will determine the champion of district C2-3.
Wayne got back on the right track following a 48-13 win against O’Neill. Tanner Walling found Alex Phelps for three touchdowns and the offense put up the most points it has all season. It’s a unit that Wayne will need to be in good shape when it travels to Pierce this week. I have a feeling the winner of that bout will be hosting a playoff game in the first round.
Not only were the run game and defense in tip-top shape, but the passing game remained as consistent as it has pretty much all season. Senior quarterback Dylan Amick has now thrown for at least 100 yards in each of Battle Creek’s last seven games while keeping a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2:1. If the Braves can play the way they did against Pierce and stay healthy, no one, and I mean no one, will want to face these guys in the playoffs. The regular-season finale at North Bend Central awaits.
Hartington Cedar Catholic took care of business against Ponca in a 48-14 win. Tate Thoene had his second straight game with four passing touchdowns, with two to Grant Arens and two to Jaxson Bernecker. This passing attack for the Trojans is getting more and more dangerous at just the right time. All that stands between them and a district title is Norfolk Catholic, which beat them 14-10 on their home turf a year ago for that same accolade. Can Cedar Catholic get it done this time?
Howells-Dodge made quick work of its Highway 91 rivals in a 30-0 win over Clarkson/Leigh. The defense made five tackles for loss — including three by Aandy Dominguez — while handing the Patriots their first shutout of the season. What’s impressive to me is the efficiency of the Jags offense. They put up far more points offensively despite running just 34 plays compared with 59 by Clarkson/Leigh. Now the playoffs await, as the black and green host Elmwood-Murdock.
Stanton concluded its regular season with a 56-26 win over Guardian Angels Central Catholic. After only scoring eight points at Howells-Dodge, the Mustangs have now scored 108 in their past two games. Parker Krusemark had six total touchdowns in the contest and now has 16 on the season. His efficiency will be a big key for the orange and white as playoffs begin. They host Heartland in the first round on Thursday.
Humphrey St. Francis completed its second undefeated regular season in three years with a 38-6 win over Central Valley, which gave the Flyers their only loss a season ago. It was a somewhat pedestrian day for an offense that averages 48 points a game, but it continues to run efficiently, especially with Jaden Kosch and Isaac Classen. Allen comes to town this week.
Neligh-Oakdale had another great defensive performance on Friday, this time in a 38-13 win over Nebraska Christian. The Warriors held the Eagles to 181 total yards and forced an interception. In its first six games, Neligh-Oakdale allowed 40 points a game. The Warriors have allowed a combined 19 in their past two. Whatever they’re doing now is working and they’ll need everything that defense can give in the playoffs. They host Dewitt Tri County on Thursday.
This Lutheran High Northeast team has the kind of running game that so many teams in eight-man football use to win championships. They have the backs to get it done, and they have a line with the size to push you around on both sides of the ball. I do wonder if the Eagles’ depth is enough to have them playing for another few weeks. It was around this time a year ago that it started to thin, which played a big role in their second-round loss. They open up their playoffs with Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family.
Pender wrapped up the district D2-2 title with a 56-16 win over Homer. This offense continues to run about as smooth as any in the class. Five players now have seven or more total touchdowns and at least 190 total yards. Two of those players (Braxton Volk and Caleb Trimble) have surpassed 20 total touchdowns on the year. Now comes a Creighton team that kept it a 14-point game in the first week of the season.
Bloomfield had a record-setting day against Creighton in a 60-32 win. Layne Warrior’s 1,029 receiving yards are the most in a season in school history, and his 242 in the contest were the most in a game. Braeden Guenther’s 282 yards through the air set a school record for a game as well. This team is young but has shown up in the toughest moments on both sides of the ball. Now can the Bees do what last year’s squad couldn’t do and make it past the Round of 16? They’ll have a chance to get halfway there against Wausa.
It’s important to note that Laurel-Concord-Coleridge did not have running back Evan Haisch, who missed the district title against Lutheran High Northeast with an undisclosed injury. As a result, the Bears had to drastically change their game plan. Going into the game, quarterback Evan Schmitt had attempted just 34 passes all year. On Friday, he attempted 26. Combine that with the fact that they got knocked around in the trenches and there are suddenly a lot of questions to answer. They’ll have to do so with or without Haisch and fast. A one-loss Exeter-Milligan/Friend team comes to town.
O’Neill St. Mary’s beat Boyd County 78-44, but there are still some concerns about this Cardinals team. The Cardinals once again got off to a slow start, this time being up just 20-14 against a Spartans team that came in 1-6. Also, to allow 44 points to a team like that is worrisome, even if most of them were allowed in garbage time. On Thursday afternoon, they’ll face an Elgin Public/Pope John team whose backfield duo of Jack Wemhoff and Paiton Hoeffer could put St. Mary’s in a hole early.
I keep Clarkson/Leigh in the top 10 because of the brutal schedule it’s faced this season that includes losses in hard-fought games to Cross County, Stanton and last week Howells-Dodge. That said, not being able to put up any sort of scoring against the Jaguars is concerning, especially with the depth it has in the backfield. Unfortunately, the schedule doesn’t get any easier. The team travels to Stromsburg to face Cross County for the second time this season and the fourth time in the last two. Do the players have enough left in the tank to pull off an upset?