Lutheran High NE's Shaka Taylor (#12), one of C-2's best.
It all takes place tomorrow at 4 different football sites, none of which are west of Doniphan. Will this be Doniphan-Trumbull's year? Will the Cardinals dispose of Western power North Platte St. Pats and be headed for an always dreaded rematch with the old grey fox Carl Tesmer and his St. Cecilia Bluehawks? Will Battle Creek have their suspended players back to face St. C's? Will it be first one to 50 in the Aquinas/Lutheran High NE game? Can Centennial continue it's Cinderella run through the C-2 field?
I'll give my two cents on these questions today......now I didn't say I would answer them did I?
Let's get to it:
North Platte St. Patricks (9-1) at Doniphan-Trumbull (10-0) 6:00
*Doniphan-Trumbull is rapidly becoming a very scary football team because of one thing...defense.
After allowing 30 points to a strong Sutton squad back on October 11th, the Cardinal defense has allowed only one touchdown and that was a score that mane no difference in a 46-7 handling of Centura. Last week D-T pitched a 26-0 shutout in their 2nd round win over a fine Crofton team at the Warrior's house no less. There are certainly no questions regarding Doniphan-Trumbull's offense, no sireee. Jordan Slough, C-2's most exiting runner by far, has rushed for 1,675 yards and 24 TDs. The 185 pound super flash is also a dangerous receiver, having nabbed 17 passes for 377 yards and 6 TDs. QB Riley Wiltfong has completed 77 of 149 passes for 1,402 yards and 16 scores with only 6 INTs. The lanky field general can also take off on a run, witnessed by his 438 rushing yards and 6 TDs. When Wiltfong isn't targeting Slough with his passes, he tries to locate 6-4 basketball buddy Creighton Buhr or speedy #6, Zach McNally. Buhr has 15 receptions for 284 yards and 3 TDs. McNally, who has great hands, has caught 13 balls for 222 yards and 3 TDs. Both Slough and McNally are deadly in return game. Defense is led by Jake Critel, who pound for pound at 175, is one of C-2's finest. Critel has 60 solo tackles and is followed by ball hawking Creighton Buhr who has 49 solos. A lot to like about these Cardinals.
*North Platte St. Pats is no stranger to the deep part of the C-2 playoffs. A year go the Irish were in this exact same spot...the C-2 quarterfinals against the same Doniphan-Trumbull squad. St Pats came out on the short end of a 35-6 score that night in Doniphan. Super head coach Kevin Dodson had only 4 starters back on offense and 5 on "D", but that is enough amunition for a coach the caliber of Dodsen. The Irish run the ball about 78% of the time and average 317 yds/game on offense. Senior Collin Pieper leads the ground attack with 1,024 yards and 17 TDs. Quarterback Alex Harms has thrown for 735 yards but has a completion percentage of 41% and been picked off 6 times to go with his 7 TDs.
It's the defensive side of the ball where Irish shine. St. Pats reputation for tough, ground roots football players shows up when the opposing team has the ball. Of all the surviving C-2 playoff teams, North Platte St. Pats is the king of defense, allowing only 216 yards an outing. It wasn't until the last round of the playoffs that all opponents combined reached the 1000 yard rushing mark. That St. Pats secondary has pirated 15 passes this seasaon, including six by 5-10, 140 pound dynamo Drew McClellen. The junior is also a splendid return man and can knock your head off with a jarring tackle. Mark Mayfield and Harms are two of the best D-Ends in C-2 and don't be surprised if Mayfield snares a couple of big passes in this game.
You just have to think St. Pats learned something from last year's Doniphan-Trumbull quarterfinal contest.
Battle Creek (10-0) @ Hastings St. Cecilia (8-2) 5:30:
*How about those Braves. To see their record one would think you were back to the glory days of Bob Schnitzler. Battle Creek was in the toughest District of any class in the state....C-2/6. The Braves waltzed through that district beating the likes of West Holt (33-7), Hartington CC (36-7), Crofton (30-21) and Lutheran High NE (41-3). The pasting of Lutheran High NE in the regular season finale made a believer out of me for sure. In the playoffs Battle Creek coasted to a 61-14 1st round win over Bayard and disposed of an excellent Sutton squad 14-8 last Wednesday. The Braves have been playing in the post season without some key players who are serving suspensions for a violating team policy. One of those missing is outstanding RB Nate Gray, who rushed for a fat 1,322 yards in only 8 games and crossed the goal line 18 times. Yet, this team has played on without these guys and have played well. Talk is that these suspensions were 3 games in length and this would be the 3rd of that 3 game span. We'll see. I'll guarantee you if Gray and his pals come back this football team might be headed for Lincoln.
Battle Creek also features an O and D-Line that is almost unequalled in C-2. That is impressive considering the fact the Braves had only 1 returning offensive line starter and 2 on defense coming back in 2013. Battle Creek will run the ball 80% of the time like most high schools, but offensively, only Doniphan-Trumbull and Fremont Bergan were better and Bergan is gone from the post season picture. Right along side of NP St. Pats, Battle Creek is one of the best in C-2 on defense. Very balanced, the Braves have no real stars, just a group of young men that put the stops to opposing offenses. If you had to single out any leaders on that BC defense it would probably be junior Jake Finkral, and seniors Zach Kirby, Eli McKeown and Jordan Swartz all of whom make up the secondary. Senior Trev Bode leads the D-Line.
*The words gridiron excellence and St. Cecilia Bluehawks are synonymous since God was a child. Since 1987, St. Cecilia has missed the playoffs only 3 times and have been there every single season since 1999. Are you counting? That's 14 straight. And since '98, the 'Hawks have been eliminated in the 1st round only twice and have advanced past that round every year since 2002. Coach Carl Tesmer, my old backfield buudy at GICC in the late 60's, notched his 300th win not long ago, and once again has St. C's in the mix. This St. Cecilia football team is an opponent nobody wants to see, especially this deep into the playoffs. The Bluehawks average around 324 yards an outing on offense, running the ball 82% of the time. On defense, St. C's can be pretty stubborn, as witnessed in their 14-3 loss to powerhouse Doniphan-Trumbull. Patrick Herman is a 1000 yard rusher on offense, while 190 lb. senior Canon Howell calls the signals from his QB slot. TE/LB Alex Sheehy, a 180 senior, is one of the best linebackers in Class C-2 and has a true nose for the ball. Sheehy has recovered 3 fumbles form that LB slot and junior Jake Kadow has picked off 4 passes this fall. Patrick Herman can also put opponents in a deep hole with his 42 yds per punt average, best in C-2.
These two teams last faced each other in the 1st round of the 2009 C-2 playoffs. Bluehawks put a 47-12 beating on the Braves that night. The game tomorrow night will be much closer, trust me.
Centennial (7-3) at Malcolm (8-2) 7:00:
Are the multitudes asking "where in the world did these two teams come from?" Malcolm isn't exactly a longshot here, entering the playoffs as a 4 seed in the West bracket. Centennial came in at #8 and had to beat #9 Elmwood-Murdock, a perennial C-2 power, and #1 seed Omaha Brownell-Talbot to advance to this game. The Clippers turned back a very good Ponca squad 28-14, then beat upset winner and 12th seed Tekamah-Herman to get here. Ironically both teams are from the C-2/5 District and faced each other in week in week 4 at Centennial. Broncos came away with an exiting 26-23 "W" that night in September.
*Centennial, unlike many high school teams in Nebraska, runs a very balanced pass/run offense. We're talking a 51/49 ratio here. Broncos average 157 rushing yards a game and 162 passing. Kyle Gierhan is the quarterback and has hit on 52% of his passes for 1,425 yards and 11 scores. Gierhan, a junior, has suffered 8 interceptions. When Gierhan throws, he seems to always look for Logan Clonce and rightly so. Clonce, a 6'7" high jumper, has snagged 24 of those aerials for 641 yards and 4 TDs, one of which was an 80 yarder. 5-11, 175 pound senior Andrew Bader leads the ground attack with 578 yards and 5 scores followed closely by QB Gierhan who has rushed for 533 yds and 9 TDs. Big 6-2, 215 pound junior defensive end Andrew Heine leads the Bronco "D" with 76 tackle points, but it's 145 pound junior Dave Payne that can lay the wood as witnessed by his 46 unassisted stops. Centennial's only 3 losses were to Hastings St. Cecilia, David City Aquinas, and Fremont Bergan and they are thus excused.
*C'mon ya gotta love that nickname....Clippers. Malcolm has clipped eveyone on their schedule except Centennial and Sutton who beat them 30-18. Clippers will run it 60% of the time and average 355 yards a game offensively. Coming off a successful 7-3 season a year ago, Malcolm returned 7 starters on either side of the ball and were no surprise to anyone when they reeled off those 8 wins including a 14-12 regular season finale win over Aquinas. Tyler Webster, a 1st team all-district player a year ago, has led the Clippers this fall and is a very efficient passer. Webster has thrown for 1,407 yards on 77 tosses, an average of 18 yards a completion. In high school, that is pretty salty. Tyler also has 18 TD passes and only 6 interceptions this season. Webster leads the rushing attack with 704 yards and 16 TDs. 160 pound junior Jordan Redler isn't far off that pace with 623 yards but only 4 TDs.
Wade Scripter is a sparkler in the receiving department with whopping 38 receptions for 639 yards and 11 scores. Defense is buoyed by linebacker Jared Michl, who has 97 tackle points. Scripter is also a feared punt returner with a 95 yard TD to his credit.
This baby could be the best football game in this quarterfinal round.
Lutheran High Northeast (9-1) at David City Aquinas (8-2) 6:00:
Mother of Mercy make sure all the lights in that David City Memorial Field scoreboard are in working order for this game. Last year's 42-41 overtime win by Aquinas in the C-2 semi finals just about shorted that baby out. Both Ron Mimick's Monarchs and Darin Suckstorf's Lutheran High NE's teams lost lots of key faces from 2012 but both just reloaded and here they are. Aquinas' 2 losses came to Archbishop Bergan (20-14) and Malcolm (14-12). Lutheran High NE only setback was a 41-3 thumping by Battle Creek in the regular season finale.
*Out of respect for Aquinas head coach Ron Mimick I will choose not to mention any individual players. Coach Mimick likes it that way and his teams are always successful. The Monarchs have won the past two C-2 State Titles and love to run that double-wing formation and run it to a tee. This year's squad was a work in progress as Aquinas returned 5 starters on either side of the ball, which does not sound bad. Only problem was that almost every player that graduated was a skill position performer. Despite that fact, the Monarchs have played very well and obviously are here in these C-2 quarterfinals.
*Tell you what, Lutheran High NE is fielding some awfully good football and basketball teams these that can and do compete with the best of them. This year's Eagle football squad, led by the phenominal Shaka Taylor, is at the C-2 State Final's doorstep. LHNE loves to run that football say, 8 of 10 times they run a play. Shaka Taylor is simply one of the most exciting players in C-2 football. He's a shaker and baker type runner and can leave defenders grabbing a hand full of thin air. One of the few QB's you'll see wearing glasses when he performs, Taylor has run for nearly 1,500 yards and when he does put it up, completes just under 50% of his throws. Only a handful of C-2 football teams have notched over 3,000 yards rushing and Lutheran High NE is one of them. RB Nick Stolz is nearing that 1000 yard rushing mark (900 yards) and is a tough up-the-gut runner despite missing time this fall with injuries. The Eagles are efficent enough on defense, but depends on their offense to carry them to victory. Lutheran High NE does have a huge line that is led by all-stater Miles Kant. The 6-3, 180 pound LB/TE has played ALL of 2013 with a torn ACL and hasn't missed a lick. We won't pull any pinches here, the Eagles have played all season with injuries and have found ways to win, but will need to be at their best to win this one. By the way, Shaka Taylor is one of the best punt return men in this class.
Will this year's game come down Aquinas blocking an extra point in OT to seal the win? The Monarchs are undersized and will face a much bigger Lutheran High NE team. But then again, when has it bothered them before? Fasten your seat belts and buckle up the chin straps for this one Bubba.