I went into this week thinking we would learn about some of our better teams in Class D1. We did learn a lot from them — for better and worse — but I was even more enamored with the results we saw from area teams in C1 and C2.
Let’s start with that C2 team, Norfolk Catholic, which took a trip out west to face the defending state champion in Ord. The Knights came in a battered team still trying to find an identity, with Brandon Kollars on the mend and running back Dillon Barnes out for the year with a torn ACL. They left with a 30-7 win and held the Chanticleers to just 20 yards passing. Carter Janssen threw for two touchdowns, one of which was to Karter Kerkman, who also ran in a score.
You remember Columbus Lakeview, right? Lakeview was a two-point conversion away from beating Pierce on its home turf in Week 2. Lots of people, myself included, saw the Vikings as title contenders after that game, someone that could challenge the Bluejays again down the road.
Wayne did not.
On Friday, the Blue Devils marched down Highway 81 and beat Lakeview 30-17. They even had a 22-3 lead at halftime. Running back Brandon Bartos went for 17 carries, 134 yards and a touchdown, and Ashton Munsel had two of Wayne’s three interceptions, one of which was at the goal line.
So realistically, Class C has more of a top seven than a top five right now. These two teams — along with those in this week’s polls — could be playing lots of football in November. That said, some of them could be moved down a peg if they can’t respond to the tough schedules ahead, which most of them have in some capacity.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty to talk about in Class D as well, especially with a new team in the No. 10 spot.
The Pender Pendragons join the fray after a 40-26 win at Winside on Thursday night. The red and white now average 48.6 points per game this season, a stat that comes in large part thanks to a surplus of playmakers. Following last week’s game, Pender has five players with either 200-plus yards of total offense or multiple touchdowns.
Quarterback Braxton Volk is seen as the main distributor on the offense. If he doesn’t take it himself for a run, he could hand it off or pass to Caleb Trimble, Brody Krusemark or Quinton Heineman. If he's feeling dangerous, he can find Chase Hofmeister for a deep pass down the field. It’s exactly the kind of situation coach Cody Volk wants for his team.
“We’d like the defense to guess on who’s getting the ball every play,” he said.
The Pendragons were hoping to be able to develop depth on the offensive and defensive lines. In the Winside game, they lost a lineman to injury for the rest of the game, but sophomore Andrew Duncan filled in and held his own against the Wildcats’ defense.
“It shows us that we had a little bit more depth than we thought,” Volk said. “This’ll be a big test against Bloomfield because they are big up front so we’ll need that depth for sure.”
This is Volk’s third year as head coach and he feels that the system in place is really starting to pay off. It helps that around eight or nine players on the roster have experience starting.
“These guys have really bought in defensively,” Volk said. “We don’t have to prep them a whole lot on things because they adjust pretty well to any changes we make and they’re used to our terminology and things.”
There are core values within the program that are talked about frequently; toughness, discipline and selflessness. This year, he’s seeing a lot of people on the team show the latter, which says something given the number of playmakers on the team.
“There’s only one football per play and it’s OK to be selfish out there and you want the ball in your hands,” Volk said, “but they really bought into the idea that we’ve got a lot of playmakers on the team, so we can spread that ball out.
“They’re out there making the blocks for their teammates, really hustling out there to make sure that their teammates are getting the plays that they can and not pouting or anything like that if they’re not getting the touches right away.”
A 76-32 win over North Bend Central has me asking one thing; Should we be worried about Pierce’s defense? I know the Bluejays have played teams with plenty of playmakers to start the year, but for the defending champs to allow an average of 28 points to start the season isn’t exactly ideal. Abram Scholting can find Ben Brahmer for as many touchdowns as he wants, but they can’t keep allowing big plays to happen, regardless of whether they go for touchdowns. Let’s see what happens when Arlington comes to town.
Crofton has proven itself to be no slouch, but Oakland-Craig did away with the Warriors as though they were a junior varsity team. In a 42-13 win, Grady Gatewood had two passing touchdowns and another rushing. J.T. Brands led the defense with 10 total tackles. Payton Novak had six solo tackles and two for loss. It was a statement win for a team looking to prove that it can still compete with the best of the best. Can Oakland-Craig keep it going against a Norfolk Catholic team that’s found new life?
It was a quintessential Battle Creek win on Friday as the Braves beat the West Point-Beemer Cadets 39-7. The Fightin’ River led by just six going into halftime but went on to score the next 26 points en route to the victory. Once again, the purple and gold ran the ball, ran the ball and ran the ball until the Cadets couldn’t hold them anymore. I’m once again impressed with Dylan Amick, who completed seven of 12 passes for 138 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers. He might need to play an even bigger role next week, when the Braves host a talented Columbus Scotus team.
Hartington Cedar Catholic got back to the old-school football they’re known best for in a 48-6 win over Tekamah-Herman. Additionally, Tate Thoene had a great day at quarterback, completing nine of 17 passes for 138 yards and four touchdowns. The Tigers may not exactly be a juggernaut, but much like Battle Creek, the Trojans can benefit a lot if he keeps putting up similar numbers. Cedar Catholic hosts David City on Friday night.
Boone Central continued to impress in a 46-0 win over Douglas County West. The Cardinals have now opened the season with three straight games of at least 205 team rushing yards, including over 300 against DC West and Norfolk Catholic. They’ve also had a 100-yard rusher in each of those games. This week it was Cody Maricle (126) and Braden Benes (115) leading the charge. Throw in lead rusher Parker Borer and you’ve got a three-headed backfield that’s hard to stop. A trip to face a talented Central City team awaits.
There are two ways to look at Howells-Dodge’s 40-38 win over defending state semifinalist Cross County. On one hand, the Jaguars looked impressive and might just have what it takes to make it to Lincoln. On the other hand, they also might have blown a 40-14 lead at home if not for Blake Sindelar’s interception at their own 12-yard line to win it. There isn’t much time to wonder. Howells-Dodge begins district play on Friday when it hosts Wisner-Pilger
It wasn’t just the dominance over Walthill that I found impressive about O’Neill St. Mary’s. It was the Cardinals’ ability to step up without Aidan Hedstrom, who threw just one 25-yard touchdown pass and had no carries in a game where coach Tony Allen wanted to lighten his workload for a week. Dalton Alder, Tate Thompson and Gabe Pribl all ran for at least 41 yards and combined to score six touchdowns. They’ll travel to take on Niobrara/Verdigre on Friday.
The Stanton Mustangs proved that they can win in two drastically different ways, and that’s a valuable thing. The orange and white went from surviving a defensive bout with Laurel-Concord-Coleridge 11-8 to beating Wakefield on Friday in an 81-50 shootout. How about Becker Pohlman? He leads the Mustangs with 243 rushing yards and four touchdowns as a freshman. On Friday, he led the team in both categories and added a kick return touchdown for good measure. I’m sure his brother Sutton is smiling from ear to ear at Chadron State. As for the team, the Mustangs travel to face Clarkson/Leigh in their first district game.
Laurel-Concord-Coleridge comes off a bye week that’s given the Bears time to think about what to improve on. They may not face an opponent of Stanton’s caliber for a while, but these coming games are crucial for getting a leg up in the district standings. They start with a trip to Elkhorn Valley.
Neligh-Oakdale has a lot of problems — many of which we knew about even before the Warriors’ 58-12 loss to Burwell. Others were exposed. Firstly, that defense continues to be an issue. Yes, Caleb Busch is amazing, but allowing over 350 yards and eight touchdowns to him is not something that state title contenders do. This team needs to play with more physicality, especially up front. Additionally, more of these new contributors will need to step up if they want to get better. The Warriors will have a chance to do so when they travel to face North Central.
Lutheran High Northeast makes the jump to No. 6 after an impressive 22-20 win over Guardian Angels Central Catholic. This team needed young guys to step up, and many of them did just that on Thursday. Champion White and Josh Rojas have real speed on the perimeter, which will be a valuable thing to balance out the physical running of Keaton Ranslem. Landon Johnson and Cort McKeown add balance in the passing game, and the defense has come up clutch on many occasions so far. Let’s see if they can keep that balance going against a Wakefield team that throttled them 40-8 last year.
It’s not that I think Humphrey St. Francis isn’t any good. I just want to see the Flyers add a quality win to their belts. Handling Palmer 58-20 is good, but they’ve beaten only one team with a winning record so far. Because of that, it’s still hard to tell what the Flyers have outside of Tanner Pfeifer, who has contributed a great deal of the offensive production so far. Wausa comes to town on Friday.
For a second straight week, Bloomfield faced a team that handled it a year ago and, for a second straight week, the Bees returned the favor. This time, they went to Allen and won 40-12 on the road. Cody Bruegman had his third straight game with more than 125 rushing yards and multiple touchdowns. Ian Kuchar is becoming a real name to watch on the defensive end as the team’s leader in tackles. However, they'll have their hands full next week when they travel to face a Pender team with lots of playmakers.
Clarkson/Leigh survived its first game without Eli Hays in a 70-22 win over East Butler. Dylan Higby, Carter Hanel and Joey Steffensmeier were some of the many players stepping up in the run game. Now comes a Stanton team looking to win its district for the second straight year. Can the Patriots step up again with or without Hays? If so, will it be enough to pull off the upset? Should be a fun game regardless.
The weekly ratings welcome the Pender Pendragons. The team got a quality win against Winside after being down 14-7 early on. Pender has plenty of playmakers and is finding depth in places where it almost didn’t expect. The Pendragons will be a team to watch going forward, but we’ll know even more following a game against a Bloomfield team with athletic linemen and an aggressive defense. Will it be enough to slow the Pendragons down?