If you listen closely, you can hear Jim Mora’s voice getting louder and louder.
High school playoffs are almost here, A week and a half away in eight-man and 2½ away in 11-man. Some spots have already been clinched, but most remain up for grabs. Two of Norfolk’s teams will have big tests ahead that could determine where — or if — they end up playing more football in 2021.
Well that was a fun game in Lincoln, now wasn’t it? In all seriousness, Scott Frost’s squad played a great game. The offense played the best it has all season and will make this team really dangerous if it can keep that up. And yes, the refs were horrible, which is something I never thought I’d say as a Michigan fan. Also, do us one more favor? Beat Ohio State for us.
That hot start for Wayne State is still going strong. Very strong. The Wildcats knocked off defending national semifinalist and then-No. 11 Minnesota State on the road for their second top 15 win in three weeks. As a result, they’ve cracked the NCAA DII Top 25 polls for the first time in a decade, coming in at No. 23.
There’s real trouble in Kansas City. The defense continues to struggle and the team as a whole lacks physicality. Short term, you wonder how something like this can be fixed and if it would be enough to get back to the Super Bowl. Personally, I feel like if they’re going to go big to make a deep run, it should be done this year. The Chiefs will have to really start paying Patrick Mahomes next year, which will make it hard to build as good of a roster around him as he has now. The clock’s ticking.
Record last week: 6-4, 48-13 (.787) this season.
How city teams fared: Norfolk High was no match for Omaha Westside (56-7 predicted, 41-0 final); Norfolk Catholic beat BRLD for its sixth straight win (66-7 predicted, 56-3 final); Lutheran High took care of business against Plainview (52-16 predicted, 50-14 final).
Other results (predictions in parentheses): Neligh-Oakdale 50, Atkinson West Holt 6 (52-46 predicted); Hartington Cedar Catholic 27, Oakland-Craig 0 (13-10 Oakland-Craig win predicted); Wayne State 35, Minnesota State 24 (28-26 Minnesota State win predicted); Iowa 23, Penn State 20 (24-22 Penn state win predicted); Bills 38, Chiefs 20 (35-31 predicted).
Highlight: Michigan at Nebraska
It was a close game as I expected. Although, I did expect more of a defensive battle (22-17 predicted, 32-29 final)
Lowlight: O’Neill St. Mary’s at Bloomfield
That’s now three straight marquee games that I’ve gotten wrong. Either football in the region is especially crazy this year or I know very little. (32-24 O’Neill St. Mary’s win predicted, 28-22 Bloomfield win final)
Class C No. 3 Norfolk Catholic (6-1) at Crofton (4-3)
Crofton’s a tough nut to crack as is. Throw in the fact that they’re fighting for their playoff lives and you’ve got an interesting challenge ahead for the Knights. The Warriors also like to run the ball, with former Class C first-team Elite Eight running back Jimmy Allen leading the charge. He’ll be a tough challenge for this Norfolk Catholic front, but not an impossible one. The Knights survive a physical bout. Norfolk Catholic 28, Crofton 13
Grand Island (4-3) at Norfolk High (3-4)
The Panthers hired Chris Koozer to win games like these. Should Norfolk come through, it’ll have a top two spot in district A-6 (the top two teams in each district automatically qualify for playoffs in Class A) and would more than likely control its own destiny. The defense has looked good recently and even had some guys stepping up in the loss to Omaha Westside. However, to beat the Islanders, the Panthers will have to score, which they haven’t done a ton of against teams with winning records. I have to believe they’ll open up the playbook more with what’s at stake, but I don’t think they have the playmakers to get it done. Grand Island 31, Norfolk 21.
Class D No. 9 Lutheran High Northeast (7-0) at No. 3 Laurel-Concord-Coleridge (6-1)
It’s been four years since the Eagles have won a district and roughly 10 since they’ve had an undefeated regular season. To check both boxes on Friday, they’ll need to get past a Bears team with great athletes at seemingly every position. The blue and white are shifty on offense, have good size on the line and have had a handful of underclassmen step up like Champion White and Josh Rojas. However, I don’t think Lutheran High has had to deal with any athlete as dominant as Evan Haisch, let alone a team as complete as Laurel-Concord-Coleridge, which I think will start strong and hold on. Laurel-Concord-Coleridge 42, Lutheran High 20.
Columbus Scotus (7-0) at Class C No. 1 Boone Central (7-0)
Just when you thought the Cardinals’ schedule couldn’t be any tougher, along comes an undefeated Shamrocks team to prove them wrong. The running game for Boone Central has been arguably the best in Class C1, and the Cardinals will need every bit of it against a Scotus team allowing roughly 14 points a game. Its starting quarterback, Tyler Cieloha, might be out for this game with an injury. This has big seeding implications for both teams with Boone Central having the highest wild-card rating and Scotus the fourth heading into the contest. Cieloha or no Cieloha, I think the Cardinals keep on chugging. Boone Central 20, Columbus Scotus 14.
Class D No. 1 Howells-Dodge (7-0) at No. 10 Clarkson/Leigh (5-2)
It’s the grand finale of sorts in a district that could send as many as four teams to the playoffs next week. The Patriots have put up good fights to Cross County and Stanton but lost both contests. Now comes one more chance at a marquee win before the regular season ends against a Howells-Dodge team looking for its second undefeated regular season in three years and the district D1-5 title. Clarkson/Leigh has a deep backfield that can keep the Jaguars’ hands full, but I think this defense combined with Levi Belina in the run game will lift the black and green. Howells-Dodge 42, Clarkson/Leigh 24.
Emerson-Hubbard (3-4) at Allen (2-5)
It’s almost poetic that the last regular-season game for these two teams as the Pirates and Eagles is against the team they’ll be co-oping with to form Tri County Northeast next year. Both teams have had guys step up over the course of the season, but I think Allen’s experience in the playoffs over the past five years not only gives it the tools to win when it matters most, but it also makes the players hungry to punch their ticket one last time. The question is, will the win be enough to play a ninth game? Allen 52, Emerson-Hubbard 42
Class C No. 2 Pierce (6-1) at Battle Creek (4-3)
The Bluejays have gotten away with some less-than-stellar defense over the past two weeks. Now comes a Battle Creek team that has the pieces to force them into a low-scoring slugfest. Both squads have deep running back units and will be tough to crack on the line of scrimmage. If quarterback Dylan Amick can play efficiently, I think Battle Creek has a chance to win this one and keep its playoff hopes alive. This will be a tight one, but I’ll take the Bluejays, whose weapons will be a bit too much for the Braves. Pierce 15, Battle Creek 13
Nebraska (3-4) at Minnesota (3-2)
Record aside, the Huskers are playing really good football right now. However, with four losses, they’re three away from being ineligible for a bowl game for the fifth straight year. Nebraska could still get selected if enough happens around college football, but you don’t want to bet the farm on that happening. Up next is a Minnesota team that can burn you badly through the air but is thin at running back after season-ending injuries to Mohammed Ibrahim and now Trey Potts. If the Huskers’ offense looks anything close to what it did last week and they can limit the turnovers, they’ll walk out of Minneapolis with a win. Nebraska 34, Minnesota 23
No. 22 Augustana (5-1) at No. 23 Wayne State (5-1)
Man. Doesn’t it feel nice to see a number before that name? That said, the Vikings have one, too. Their only loss was by two at a tough Sioux Falls team. They score 42 points a game and have a quarterback in Kyle Saddler who’s already eclipsed 1,500 yards and has 19 touchdowns. This Wildcats defense has made big plays when it’s had to, especially in the wins at Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State. I see them making one or two here that turn the tide. Wayne State 31, Augustana 24
Packers (4-1) at Bears (3-2)
This game will be a good measuring stick for Justin Fields, who looked solid in Chicago's win over the Raiders last week. He’ll have the opportunity to get the passing game going against a Green Bay team with injuries to cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Kevin King. Neither team will dominate on the ground. The Bears had David Montgomery hit the IR and the Packers simply haven’t been able to get as much going on that front as they’d like to. I think the green and gold use their weapons on the perimeter to pull this one out. Just hope Mason Crosby doesn’t have to be the hero again. Packers 28, Bears 23