Nick's Picks

The thing about the game of football is that, no matter if a team wins or loses, there are lessons to be learned.

As an adult and a spectator now, it’s refreshing to still hear coaches mention those lessons.

Take, for example, what Lutheran High Northeast coach Darin Suckstorf had to say after Saturday’s 40-8 loss to Wakefield, a game in which the Eagles missed scoring chances multiple times throughout the afternoon.

“We just made some mistakes,” he said. “I told the guys that those mistakes are on me as they are mistakes on you. Our theme this week was accountability, and I'm going to look myself in the mirror and see where we can get better, and I hope we (as a team) can do the same thing.”

What specifically stood out?

“There were some calls on my part on the defense that put them in a bad situation,” Suckstorf said. “There were some things we could fix on both sides.”

There are several lessons here — such as learning from your mistakes, taking responsibility for your actions and the two-way street that is accountability for actions.

Sure, those are lessons you might learn in an academic setting or a leadership class. But it always seems that these lessons are applied differently when you’re participating in an activity with other people.

These are also lessons that all of us need to learn, too. As a husband and a father, I need to model how to take responsibility and learn from my own mistakes. My family and I need to hold each other accountable. It’s been two decades since I started playing high school football, and you can bet that I still remember those lessons that I learned from my own coaches.

As men, we have a special responsibility in this world, especially as husbands and fathers, to continue to lead by example in a role that we simply cannot give to anyone else. We have to continue to look in the mirror and see where we can do better, because until our time comes, we need to continue to teach future generations about things like responsibility and accountability.

Football is one of many avenues in which we can learn those lessons. We are never perfect, so we have to keep growing and reminding and improving ourselves.

Let’s get to this week’s picks, preceded by a recap of last week.

Last week's results

Record: 5-4 last week, 29-10 (.744) through four weeks.

How city teams fared: Norfolk Catholic was the only city team that did not lose a game last week. Then again, the Knights did not play a game, either, as they canceled their scheduled visit to Oakland-Craig as a precaution because of COVID-19. Lutheran High Northeast never was able to sustain any momentum against Wakefield on Saturday (Wakefield 50-36 predicted, 40-8 final). Same with Norfolk High (20-17 predicted) against Papillion-La Vista (36-7 final) on Friday.

Highlight: I’m not sure if this qualifies as a highlight, but I was two points away from having David City Aquinas’ win over Crofton spot-on (Aquinas 24-14 predicted, 22-14 final).

Lowlights: I missed the mark on three upsets last week, including Ashland-Greenwood (28-20 overtime final) over Wayne (27-22 predicted), Stanton (42-20 final) over preseason No. 1 Clarkson/Leigh (30-24 predicted), and Laurel-Concord-Coleridge (34-14 final) over previously undefeated Elkhorn Valley (44-24 predicted).

Other results (predictions in parentheses): O’Neill St. Mary’s 80, Niobrara/Verdigre 20 (50-24); Chicago 17, New York Giants 13 (27-17); Seattle 35, New England 30 (31-27).

Disclaimer: I’m a little surprised that it took a month until a game that I had included in the weekly picks column was later canceled. Hopefully that’s something that doesn’t continue.

This week's picks

11-MAN

Fremont (3-1) at Norfolk (1-3): Thanks to Omaha Public Schools canceling fall sports, both teams have already played Bellevue East as a replacement opponent. While the Panthers opened their season with a 21-7 win, the Tigers beat the Chieftains 42-14 two weeks prior. Fremont 28, Norfolk 14.

Ponca (1-3) at Norfolk Catholic (1-2): After scoring just six points total in the first three games of the season, the Indians exploded for seven touchdowns against Twin River to end a 13-game losing streak dating back to Oct. 12, 2018. But you can bet the Knights are chomping at the bit after having last week’s game canceled. I’ve been told that, as of Tuesday afternoon, this game is on as scheduled. Norfolk Catholic 28, Ponca 20.

David City Aquinas (4-0) at No. 1 Oakland-Craig (4-0): The Knights made a big statement last Friday when they scheduled, and then blanked, Logan-Magnolia of Iowa — a team that had entered undefeated and knocked off Council Bluffs St. Albert earlier in the season. That’s the kind of game that prepares you for a Nos. 1 vs. 2 showdown like what will be played this Friday. Oakland-Craig 33, Aquinas 21.

No. 3 Wayne (3-1) at No. 5 Battle Creek (3-1): What often separates championship-caliber teams from those that, well, aren’t at that level, is how they respond from adversity. The Blue Devils are at that place right now after an overtime loss last week, and they face another quality opponent in the Braves, who stopped a late two-point conversion attempt to beat Columbus Scotus by a point. Wayne 27, Battle Creek 20.

EIGHT-MAN

No. 4 Humphrey St. Francis (4-0) at Riverside (1-2): This will be the third undefeated opponent the Chargers have played this year, and their one win came by a touchdown over Osmond — the only loss for the Tigers thus far. Outside of a late letdown against Palmer, the Flyers have been pretty much unstoppable, though. St. Francis 44, Riverside 20.

No. 7 Lutheran High Northeast (3-1) at Elkhorn Valley (3-1): The gauntlet that is District 6 in Class D1 continues for both of these teams after they both suffered their first loss of the season last weekend. If the Eagles are going to rebound, they’ll need to capitalize on chances deep in opponents’ territory. If the Falcons are going to rebound, they can’t be held to 19 rushing yards and get outscored 22-0 in the fourth quarter. Lutheran High 40, Elkhorn Valley 34.

No. 10 Allen (3-0) at Pender (2-2): Could the District 2 title in Class D2 really be decided in the second week of district play? The way this district race is shaping up, that might well be the case with the Eagles and the Pendragons appearing to be top echelon. Allen has its big win over Bloomfield, which just edged Pender last week. Allen 30, Pender 20.

Guardian Angels Central Catholic (2-2) at Clarkson/Leigh (2-2): This is one of those games where you’re not really sure what to expect, as both teams have faced tough schedules so far. The Patriots are banged up right now, and that could make a difference in this game. GACC 30, Clarkson/Leigh 22.

COLLEGE

Kansas State (0-1) at No. 3 Oklahoma (1-0): I really, really want to pick the Wildcats. No word on whether that’s just because I still have a healthy dislike of Oklahoma after all those old Big Eight years. But I just, I can’t. Oklahoma 45, Kansas State 24.

Florida State (0-1) at No. 12 Miami (2-0): I still can’t stand either of these teams, but let’s be honest — both have seemed to underachieve for a while now. But the Hurricanes might have turned a corner last week against Louisville, and then you throw in the fact that Florida State coach Mike Norvell tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t make the trip. Miami 19, Florida State 14.

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