McCook's outstanding Gabe Sehnert will be looking for another 1000 yard rushing season in 2018. *(photo courtesy of Jeff Gross)
Just an advanced notice that we have another really top notch group of runners this time around…...as usual. You’re going to love this crew.
*Alex Rodgers - Omaha Roncalli - 6-0, 185, Senior (#5) QB/RB/LB
Plain and simple...one of the top all-around prep athletes in Nebraska. A 1000 yard rusher in football, a 13 ppg player in basketball and a Super-State baseball man with an offer from Nebraska in his hip pocket. If table tennis were sanctioned by the NSAA, Alex Rodgers would be an all-state selection at that too.
Ask York super Coach Glen Snodgrass how good Alex Rodgers is on the football field. Last season the Dukes beat Roncalli 37-24 in the opening round of the Class B playoffs, but Rodgers was all over the field on both offense and defense.
The sensational Crimson Pride star was 1 of 3 passing and a touchdown, ran for 138 yards and a score, and had 15 tackles from his outside LB position on defense. Nobody does that to York.
Alex Rodgers was a triple-threat out of that Omaha Roncalli backfield a year ago, playing quarterback, running back and receiver. On defense, the lad was so efficient, he led the team in tackles with 70, forty more stops than anyone else on the team. The Roncalli Catholic star just has an incredible radar-like sense of where the ball is on every play, and has absolutely picture perfect tackling technique.
Alex rushed for 1,011 yards and 13 TDs in just 8 games for Roncalli a year ago, averaging 7 and a half yards a tote. And this was against Class B competition the likes of Beatrice, Omaha Skutt and York. Can you imagine how many yards Rodgers would amass if he played for a team like York or Skutt?
Roncalli brings back 5 returning starters on offense and seven on defense, and the addition of Jack Dotzler (QB) on their football roster could mean a shift back to a full-time running back gig for Alex Rodgers.
Dotzler, a junior, is a terrific basketball player and has had success on on the soccer pitch, so his presence at quarterback could mean more rushing yards for the already dangerous Rodgers.
*Jacob Keiser - Hartington Cedar Catholic - 5-10, 185, Junior (#22) RB/MLB
It didn’t take long for Jacob Keiser to let Class C-2 know who he was in 2017. It was only the 2nd game of the season when Keiser exploded for 382 yards on 23 carries and five touchdowns in Cedar Catholic’s 37-14 win over Shelby/Rising City. He pulled the same type of deal, albeit to a lesser degree, when he rambled for 175 yards on just 8 touches against Twin River the 2nd outing of his freshman season.
Keiser went on to have a sensational sophomore season a year ago, rushing for 1,437 yards (8.0 yards/carry) and 19 TDs. He also made 39 tackles and picked off three passes from his middle linebacker slot on that Trojan “D”.
Cedar rolled along without suffering a loss until the final regular season game when #1 Ponca upended them, 20-0. The Trojans then lost a 27-26 heartbreaker to Central City in the opening round of the C-2 playoffs.
Jacob Keiser will have a young line in front of his this Fall, but one of those will be Division One prospect Rex Becker, a hulking 6-1, 245 pound player who is really just scratching the surface, talent wise. But never fear, Keiser has a ton of talent himself and will be heard from again in 2018.
Super Coach Chad Cattau runs a bunch of formations offensively and one of Keiser’s favorites is the double-wing where he can sneak across from the right side, turn the corner and ignite the “Keiser Jets”. I get a real kick out of seeing Jacob “lean” into the run with his right shoulder on those particular plays, then kick it into high gear downfield. It’s as if the lean gives Keiser an extra blast out of the blocks.
Jacob had way above average downfield blocking last year and his vision following those blocks may have been the best in C-2, especially for a sophomore. The kid can plant and cut well, especially with his left foot, but basically is a weave and glide type back that would fit Barry Switzer’s “smoke through a keyhole” description.
Also remember Keiser can play defense and actually looks like he has a little attitude with a bit of mean thrown in while he’s doing it. Every coach I know appreciates that kind of a deal.
This kid is good.
*Baily Darnell - Auburn - 6-1, 180, Senior (#26) RB/OLB
Did this lad’s performance slip by some of you a year ago? I found out about Mr. Darnell about three games deep into the season and kept a keen watch after that.
Last season, Auburn zipped through a very manageable schedule (save for Fairbury), going 8-1. Darnell racked up 1,156 yards on just 106 carries, averaging a fat 10.9 yards a pop, with 20 touchdowns. That’s a TD every 5th time he touched the football. Yeah, that’ll get your attention.
Unfortunately, Baily’s season ended in a 41-0 win over Syracuse in game 8 last year. Auburn received a tough draw in Boone Central/NG the first round of the Class C-1 playoffs, and Darnell’s presence may not have prevented a loss to the Cardinals, but the final count may have been closer than 40-3 score.
Darnell looks tall in that Bulldog backfield, and can really burn it up when he gets the football. I can’t tell you his current 40 or 100 meter times, but I do recall Baily placing
4th in the 100 meters at the State Middle School Track Championships with an :11.8 as an 8th grader, running for Falls City Sacred Heart middle school.
Baily also recently grabbed a 3rd place medal in the Class B 200 meters last May at the State Track Meet with a time of :22.74. The dude is faaaast.
Darnell’s yards all come in big chunks, whether it be as a rusher, receiver, or return man, and the dude has nice moves. The 180 pound Bulldog can make some quick decisions when changing directions and always trusts his speed to take him on a straight-away course to the end zone. The quicker foot plants may come this season
Darnell has very good power, keen vision and packs a punch at the point of contact. Pretty apparent Baily is an all-around player, considering his total yardage number reached 1,567 yards in just 8 games last year.
This young man is not going unnoticed as far as college recruiting is concerned. I understand that Dan Jackson at South Dakota State is recruiting Darnell to play defense for the Jackrabbits. Mike Sautter has reported that the Auburn star also holds Division II offers from Augustana, Sioux Falls, Bemidji State and Wayne State.
And yes, the Huskers are aware of Baily Darnell. He was invited and did attend Friday Night Lights 2018 at Memorial Stadium, I understand.
*Adam Cooper - Grand Island Northwest - 5-11, 175, Senior (#6) RB/CB
Adam Cooper may be the missing piece of the offense Northwest needs to advance in the playoffs…...a 1000 yard rusher. Cooper emerged as just that a year ago and complemented record setting QB Carter Terry’s passing game very well. Although the Vikings were beaten by Gretna the opening round of the Class B playoffs last year, Northwest had the Dragons on their heels much of the contest.
The big thing with Cooper a year ago was the fact he improved his strength, and seemed to get quicker as the season rolled along. He also used his acceleration better in tight quarters as well. Adam just simply got better as the season progressed and ended 2017 with a sparkling 1,106 yards rushing.
And here’s the deal with Northwest, and I’ve said it for years. You can have a quarterback who throws for a gazillion yards, breaking records on the way, but unless that QB is a capable runner, it is essential that they have a running back contributing at least 800 plus rushing yards to balance out that Viking offense. Otherwise opposing teams are going to know what’s coming every play. Not rocket science, and that’s why I’m excited about the Vikings having Adam Cooper back with a 1000 yard season under his belt and an entire summer of lifting and strength conditioning.
There is nothing fancy about this Cooper’s running style, just straight ahead, tough running. And don’t forget Cooper is a pass receiving threat out of that Viking backfield as well.
GI Northwest runs out of what I call the old Shotgun formation with the halfback standing directly to the right or left of Carter Terry. Tell you what, if you come out in a Pistol set with Adam Cooper a step or two behind that quarterback, and you give that dude a few more steps and a head of steam…..look out. And I realize the Vikings probably already have this formation, but I’m thinking Cooper could be deadly with a couple more yards head start.
And…………..I’m not a coach, so I will conclude by saying this. Expect a big 2018 season out of #6, Mr. Cooper. His 1,500 rushing yards presence could get the Vikings deeper in those Class B playoffs.
*Gabe Sehnert - McCook - 6-0, 180, Senior - (#13) RB/Strong Outside Linebacker
There’s nothing unlucky about Gabe Sehnert’s #13 jersey. He is simply another link in a long line of 1000 yard rushers and outstanding field leaders for super Coach Jeff Gross at McCook.
Sehnert zipped for 1,014 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago for the 9-2 Bison, who lost to Omaha Skutt in the 2nd round of the Class B playoffs. Gabe was also a force on defense from his strong outside linebacker slot, where he made 49 tackles, 4 tackles for losses, and a pirated pass against Aurora.
Gabe Sehnert is a dangerous threat out of the backfield for Jeff’s Bison. Tough runner with great pad level, plus smooth-as-silk moves that enable him to rip off yards in big bunches. It doesn’t stop there because Gabe Sehnert is also a solid receiver out of that McCook veer backfield.
Here’s what I like about this kid. On defensive side of the ball, Gabe seems to realize he doesn’t have the size of a DJ Gross or the great Schlager boys of the past at his linebacker position. This translates into a young man that plays extremely smart football.
There is no doubt that Gabe Sehnert is a terrific linebacker, but the kid knows how to play in survival mode. He is intelligent enough not to sacrifice his body at all costs. Yes, the guy plays tough, but a “highly intelligent tough”.
After watching high school football for 50 years, I’m one guy who thinks the survival mode thing is necessary at times if you play at Sehnert’s weight and go both ways. It’s the key to staying healthy and being on the field for a 13 game championship run.
In closing, I do not know any coach that wouldn’t take a dozen “Gabe Sehnerts” on their football team. Invaluable football player.
*Bryce Kitrell - Ashland-Greenwood - 6-0, 185, Junior (#25) RB/CB
This youngster takes my breath away. I’ve watched a bunch of football in my lifetime and it is not all that common to see a sophomore with moves and football smarts like Bryce Kitrell displayed last season. Dizzying to say the least.
If A-G develops a line like they had a few years back when they had the magnificent Trevor Nichelson, Bryce Kitrell will light up the scoreboard like the marquees I used to see every night when I played drums and percussion in Las Vegas. The young Kitrell zipped for 1,060 yards and 10 scores in 2017 for Coach Ryan Thompson’s Bluejays, averaging 8 yards a pop, and now I’m going to tell you why I like this youngster so well.
First of all….bloodlines….Big time. Bryce’s father Barry played fullback for Nebraska, oldest bro Blake played for the University of Tulsa and later Washburn, another brother Bo played for the Huskers like dad, and bro Brett is currently playing for Frankie at Ohio University.
There doesn’t necessarily need to be any 2nd reason with bloodlines like that, but I will tell you that Bryce Kitrell displayed some eye-catching, highly skilled footwork as a sophomore. His plant and cutting moves were reminiscent of backs like Jaylin Bradley or Jevyon Ducker of Bellevue West. Those are some high calibur cuts, man.
Bryce also is weight room strong and very powerful on the football field, possessing that Kitrell ability to shed defenders and drag others for those yards after contact. And vision? Extraordinary for his age and it will only improve, as will his above average, breakaway speed.
If Ryan Thompson keeps Bryce back on kickoffs, the kid has a chance of bringing one back to the house every shot he gets. Also a fine defender from his deep slot, already breaking up several passes in just two years of action back there.
I can promise you this much. Bryce Kitrell will be a very special player the next two years for Ashland-Greenwood.