Scottsbluff football co-captains for 2018 (L-R) Chris Busby, Keegan Reifschneider, Garrett Nelson, Jeremiah Delzer. *(photo courtesy of talented KNEB (Scottsbluff) Radio Sports Director, Chris Cottrell)
Last season, the Scottsbluff football team pulled off something they had done only twice in the past 17 years. The ‘Cats won a playoff game, and they did it without completing a pass and with mostly underclassmen.
When Scottsbluff beat Blair 49-27, the Bearcats did as they had done all season, get it done with the ground game. And even though the ‘Cats lose All-District QB Noah Bruner, who ran for over 500 yards in 2017, they return 80% of their ground attack for the upcoming season…...and that 80% is fast, powerful and just plain frightening.
This 2018 Scottsbluff football team is ready to explode. There are so many impressive players on this team, and some that have not have been fully tapped as far as talent goes, but, it is literally impossible and not practical to use every significant piece to this magical Bearcat offensive puzzle on every play.
Head Coach Joe Benson, who has carved out a 73-38 record the past 11 years at Scottsbluff, has “hidden” resources within this football team that would make any Class B coach jealous with envy. The trick that lies within will be how to utilize all this talent against some of those good Class B defenses.
The 2018 ‘Cats return 6 starters on offense, 8 on the defensive side of the ball, and have a bonafide Husker football commit at the center of the Bearcat axis. The “Husker Recruit” thing is old hat to 6-3, 240 pound Garrett Nelson, who was offered coming out of his sophomore season at the Bluffs…..June 24th, 2017 to be exact for “Hard Commit” Nelson.
In case you were wondering, you do not want to run into Garrett Nelson if you play offense. The always active Nelson made 44 tackles last season, 11 were for losses and 7 of those were inflicted upon the quarterback. On offense, Garrett lines up at fullback most of the time, but carried the ball only 13 times for 133 yards in 2017, and the bulk of those yards came on two handoffs, a 35 yard burst up the gut on an unsuspecting GI Northwest defense, and a big 59 yarder against Alliance.
Now...if history repeats itself, Scottsbluff is going to run the ball 78% of the time and every single opponent knows it. It makes good sense to assume the ‘Cats have a 1000 yard rusher….and they do. Dude’s name is Chris Busby, and he bolted for 1,524 yards last year (nearly 10 yards a pop), scored 19 touchdowns and just happens to be the fastest human in Class B, winning the 100 Meter Dash last May at the State Track Championships at Omaha Burke.
Busby picks ‘em up and lays ‘em down to the tune of a :10.7 hundred meters and a ::21.9 two hundred, so unless Norfolk Catholic’s Dylan Kautz plays Class B football in 2018, “ain’t” nobody going to catch Chris Busby if he breaks into the open field.
The Bluffs also have a freakishly talented kid named Jasiya DeOllos in their backfield. I stood 30 feet away from the 6-0, 205 pound DeOllos two years ago when he perfectly timed an interception in his 4th varsity game ever (as a freshman). Jasiya took it 77 yards the other way for a Pick 6 against a great Aurora team on that play. The kid is also faster than blazes, has a 38” vertical, and is only a junior to boot.
DeOllos was very effective as a sophomore in 2017, rushing for 667 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also caught 7 passes for 107 yards (1 TD) and made 14 stops on defense, 4 of those for losses.
Manning the quarterback position will be 6-3, 205 pound junior Sebastian Harsh, who also happens to be a head-hunting destroyer from his Tight End slot on defense (45 tackles, 7 TFL). Yeah….QB/TE combination. Pretty rare. You think the kid might be tough as nails?
But...can he run the football for 500 yards, or pass it if the situation arises….and it will.
Last season, Harsh did play some QB, rushing for 200 yards. Sebastian also completed 6 of his 18 passing attempts for 114 yards and a score. Will a 33% completion rate work this season for Scottsbluff? Hey, Noah Bruner threw for 435 yards and 7 TDs a year ago and had the identical 33% completion rate. Just saying.
Here’s the deal on some of that semi-untapped talent I spoke of earlier. The Bearcats have an absolute, first class, top notch wide receiver in Keegan Reifschneider. The 5-11, 175 pound super athlete, who was an All-State defensive back in 2017, can catch anything thrown near his body. The nimble Reifschneider has exceptional hands and an uncanny ability to get open on pass routes.
Here I go again. If Keegan Reifschneider played for a passing team like GI Northwest or Aurora, you’d be reading about his 1,100 receiving yards. Yeah I know, if Its and Buts were Candy and Nuts……….still, the kid is somewhat untapped on offense, but Keegan did catch 12 passes last season for a gigantic 400 yards and 4 TDs. (33 yds/catch and every 3rd reception a score)
Another relatively untapped source is #39, 6-0, 195 pound Jeremiah Delzer, a TE/MLB. Delzer, who played in 7 games last season, caught only 4 passes for 37 yards. On defense, just 7 tackles. Oh, did I mention that Delzer was 2nd in the 200 at the State Track Meet (:22.4) and 5th in the 100 (:11.0)?
And then there’s that “critical to any “ground-oriented” team…...the Bearcat Offensive Line.
Start with 6-6, 290 pound junior, Sam Clarkson, a potential all-state pick for 2018. And he is the lightweight of that O-Line compared to 6-3, 315 pound All-District Jordan Hort, who is definitely a defensive standout. Throw in another 2017 O-Line starter in 5-11, 235 pound Nate Harms, and you have big fellas who have the ability create some wide lanes for those Bluffs runners.
And lest we forget, Garrett Nelson is also brutal as a blocker, especially on sweeps, where he recorded double digit pancake blocks the past 2 seasons.
On defense, the Bearcats did an excellent job in 2017. The only blemish on that unit’s year was the York playoff game. But every other defense that faced York in 2017 bore that same blemish….even Omaha Skutt.
All of the aforementioned offensive standouts will return to make Scottsbluff a force on the defensive side of the ball in 2018 as well, especially the ball hawking Reifschneider, who recorded 5 interceptions and a Pick 6 a year ago.
Let’s have some fun here.
So, what would happen this fall if Joe Benson and his staff decided to…………….
...give Garrett Nelson more offensive carries.
...throw the ball 30% of the time instead of 18%, to get Reifschneider more involved.
...Throw more short, crossing patterns across the middle of the defense.
Oh wait, hold on…..1). Joe Benson and his staff already know what they’re doing, 2). I’m not an offensive coach, and 3). Scottsbluff went 9-2 in 2017, won a playoff game and will probably be pre-season #2 in Class B in more than one poll.
Okay, scratch the above suggestions, but I still say this Scottsbluff Bearcat football team is ready to explode in 2018. Same roadblocks await this bunch this fall...a home date with McCook the last game of the regular season, plus Omaha Skutt and defending Class B Champion York lurking in the East.
Nonetheless, this could be a special year for a Bearcat football team that last played at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln for all the Class B marbles in the year 2000.