Omaha North running back Jordan Strong, a 225 pound battering ram.
Nebraska's Top Prep Football players for 2016 - Part 8
We feature only three players in today's salute, but they are big time performers when game time rolls around.
We will tell you about a Class A running back that is a battering ram and nearly impossible to stop for negative yardage. Also highlighted is an athlete so vastly talented, he could probably excel at Water Polo if his high school offered it. And last, but not least, the most talked about lineman in the state of Nebraska will be featured.
No time to waste, there are only 40 days remaining until the start of the 2016 high school football season, so let's hit it.
*Jordan Strong-Omaha North - 6-2, 225, Senior - RB/DL (#4)
There are some things I used to wonder about Jordan Strong. Yes, the bloodlines were always there with his father being Calvin Strong Sr, but what about being a big dude and always playing in the shadow of your older bro, Calvin (Jr.)?
Here is an older sibling that was the first running back in Nebraska prep football history to run for over 3,000 yards in a single season. And here you are, Calvin's "little" brother, tipping the scales at a hulking 250 pounds and "stuck" in the defensive line for Omaha North. Well, I'm relatively certain Jordan Strong was never down in the dumps about his size and position or amount of playing time for that matter. But the cards just happen to fall in place a year ago for the younger Strong and look where things are today.
After dominating opponents so strongly in OPS middle school football games, I believe remembering that MaxPreps named Jordan one of the Top 50 incoming freshman in the entire country. 6-2, 250 pounds with bloodlines and all that football knowledge? Can't help but draw some attention.
The younger Strong spent all of his freshman and most of his sophomore seasons as a lineman, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Then 2015 then rolls around beginning with high hopes for the two-time defending state Class A champion Vikings of Omaha North. Unfortunately, that isn't how things were shaping up.
Yes, Calvin Strong graduated along with his stellar senior class, but the Vikings had a terrific RB coming back in the person of Tavion Seals, who gained 752 yards as an understudy to Strong, plus some very nice lineman and skill position players. Then Seals blows out a knee and is lost for the 2015 season before the first snap even takes place.
But a new star is unveiled during the opener against Millard North. Sophomore Milton Sargbah, a name with few are familiar with, slashes for 132 yards on 26 carries and a score in Omaha North's heartbreaking 21-19 loss to the Mustangs. By this time though, Coach Larry Martin had decided to give a 25 pound slimmer Jordan Strong a shot at carrying the football.
The following week Sargbah runs wild in a bizarre 8-Man type 51-50 two overtime loss to Omaha Burke. Jordan totes the ball 8 times for 33 yards and is one of 7 ball carriers to touch the football in the game. The following week North beats an overmatched South Sioux City team 54-0. Sargbah goes off for 172 yards on 9 touches and scores 4 TDs. Strong adds 92 yards on 9 totes and runs for a 38 yard TD.
The following week Bell West beats up on Sargbah and the Vikings 49-10, but the following week, Omaha North unleashes a furious rushing attack in a 21-17 win over Creighton Prep with Sargbah ripping the Junior Jays for 175 yards and Jordan Strong not far in his rear view with 161.
The Vikings have finally hit stride.
But bad luck strikes again when North plays rival Omaha Central. Running behind a banged up offensive line and against a Class A best Omaha Central defense, Sargbah gains only 22 yards and is apparently injured, leaving the future running back duties to the now 6-2, 225 pound Strong.
After rushing for 26 yards against Omaha Central, Jordan Strong would never again see a sub-100 yard rushing night in 2015. Game by game, the Vikings would lean on the 225 pound Strong more and more. And Calvin's "little" brother would respond every game, realizing he was no longer a role player, but a "go-to" cog in the Viking offense.
The final three regular season contests against Omaha South, Westside, and Bellevue East, the powerful, yet nimble-footed junior would rip off rushing games of 104, 123 and 189 yards. Strong's running and the witty coaching of Larry Martin and his staff lifted the 4-5 Omaha North football team into the 2015 playoffs. Still there were doubters.
The reward, a return trip to Grand Island to face one of the toughest defenses in all of Class A.
In a pouring rainstorm, Martin turned to his featured running back, just as he did the year before in GI with Calvin Strong. This time it was big Jordan and the bruising, battering ram did the unthinkable......carry 41 times against the vaunted Islander defense. Jordan was unstoppable to the tune of 341 yards, and the big guy scored every single touchdown in the Vikings 35-17 win over the Islanders.
The following week, Strong did it again versus a very fine Omaha Westside team. Jordan shredded the Warrior defense for 239 yards on 39 carries and scored 3 TDs in North's 31-28 overtime victory.
The 1st two playoff games, Jordan Strong had racked up 620 yards on 88 touches, tallying 8 TDs. In the semifinals the following Friday, Millard West ended the great Omaha North resurgence with a 42-10 thud, but in the meantime Jordan Strong had rushed for 1,538 yards after only running for 272 the opening 4 games while the Vikings were going 1-3. All Calvin Strong's "not so little bro" did the final 8 outings was ramble for 1,266 yards and 14 scores.
So what is in store for the now senior Jordan Strong? With some powerfully strong lineman like Kendrick Parker and Westside transfer Kevin Williams in front of him, plus a host of other highly talented senior classmates, 2016 should be a scary thought to Omaha North opponents.
Strong is definitely faster than you think on the football field. When #4 gets a head of steam, it takes more than a couple of folks to bring him to the turf. Jordan can also catch the ball out of the backfield and with a promising quarterback like Justin Jackson-Williams handling the snaps this fall, that is a lethal option for Larry Martin and his staff.
When all was said and done in 2015, Omaha North really never missed a beat coming off 2 state titles. In fact, the Vikings overcame great adversity, learned and matured from it as the season progressed and ended a only one game short of a 3rd consecutive trip to Lincoln's Memorial Stadium.
I will not have to remind everyone of Jordan Strong's presence once that August 26th Millard North opener rolls around. Big, quick number 4 will be around and did you notice the name of Milton Sargbah was not mentioned when discussing the 2016 season?
Boy, would I like to have the problem of deciding who gets the ball more come this fall, Strong or Sargbah. Sweet problem for Coach Martin.
*Lane McCallum-Norfolk - 6-2, 195, Senior - RB/OLB/Kicker (#15)
All of you big time high school sports fans can check around, flip through the stat books, and hit all the Internet sites, but you'll not find a more versatile, all-around, God-gifted prep athlete than Lane McCallum.
The "lucky" plays he pulls out of his hat like the 65 foot buzzer beater basketball shot against Lincoln High or the one-handed interception against Lincoln Southeast on football field a year ago are more than just pure luck. The dude is just that good. Honest to goodness it seems like McCallum can see these situations coming and pull off a reaction that nearly makes it look routine.
As I stated above, if Norfolk High had a water polo program, McCallum would probably be an all-state selection. You can tread water, right Lane?
Last season, the versatile McCallum was moved from wide receiver to running back in the Panther offense. The junior jack-of-all-trades responded with 984 yards on 176 carries and 12 touchdowns for the 7-3 Norfolk squad. On defense, Lane McCallum was the same force he was as a sophomore, logging 60 tackles, 3 intercepted passes, 8 pass breakups, 3 blocked kicks, and 3 caused fumbles, 2 of which were recovered.
Oh, but it doesn't stop there.
McCallum just happens to also have one of the best kicking legs in Nebraska high school football. Maybe the best.
Last year he booted 37 of 38 point after kicks and was good on 8 of 12 field goal tries. The 185 pound junior also averaged 43.5 on his punts and sent a mind boggling 70 percent of his kick-offs into the end zone for touchbacks.
During his 3 season career for Tom Olson's Panthers, McCallum has converted 74 of his 77 point after boots and 14 of the 22 field goal attempts. Needless to say, Lane McCallum was named Super-State kicker for the Lincoln Journal-Star in 2015.
So what is in store for Norfolk High's Renaissance Man this fall? Well, the 195 pound senior who runs a 4.6 forty, an :11.3 hundred meters and can vertical jump 31" may just need oxygen at times in 2016. Will he ever come off the field?
Along with Logan Strom, who possesses Seven Division One offers each in both football and basketball, the Panthers are lookin' good. Yes, graduation took away a great senior class, but there were also key juniors filling in, getting better each week and setting the table for what could very well be a title run this fall.
With the new district scheduling format in Class A, Norfolk plays only one outstate team, rival Fremont. Six Omaha schools dot the Panthers 2016 slate and the table seems to be set for Norfolk to do some serious damage and right smack dab in the midst of all this will be #15, Mr. McCallum.
Keep an eye on the headlines this football season, because Lane McCallum just may have a hand at winning football games for the Panthers in every conceivable way there is to do it, and don't be surprised if a D1 football offer or two doesn't pop up along the way.
*Masry Mapieu-York - 6-5, 275, Junior - Defensive Tackle/G (#70)
By this time Masry Mapieu is no secret and most of you know his widely publicized story, and a feel good storyline it is. It took only one look for Nebraska at Friday Night Lights to offer this genuine young man a full ride scholarship. A transfer from 8-Man McCool Junction, a short 15 miles south of York, young Mapieu is now under the guidance of the finest coaches, human beings and leaders of young men in Nebraska high school football, Glen Snodgrass. There may be no better and I say that from the depths of my heart. I have the highest respect for this man and have since our first meeting.
Mapieu, who was born in Egypt, is the son of Sudanese parents. His family came to the United States and landed in Kansas City, then moved to Lincoln. He is now under the foster care of Loretta Bellows, who resides in McCool Junction.
The massive 6-5, 282 pound Mapieu, who benches 345 and is most likely in size 15 shoes by now, transferred to York after his freshman season at McCool. Coach Snodgrass and defensive coach Matt Kern slowly worked in the raw talent. Mapieu, a defensive tackle, had a habit of merely standing up once the ball was snapped at McCool and simply overpowering his blocker. Once in York, the coaches knew that technique would not fly.
With the York Duke scheme of things on defense, that DT must play low with leverage and use his hands. But when you are a 6-5 sophomore that weighs 270 pounds and have never been taught this technique, it can be tough. Although I'm not certain, I just don't think those tackles shoot gaps either and that was exactly what Masry was doing for those 8-Man Mustangs down south.
I think the first time Mapieu saw action was September 18th in the Lincoln Pius game. No solo stops, but Nine assists. The sophomore would play the remaining 6 games, improving all the way. By end of the season Coach Snodgrass stated that Masry was often times controlling two A-Gaps and still penetrating. Also consider the fact the youngster was competing against some of the best offensive centers in Class B.
I'll be honest, I did not notice him much in the York/GINW game, but did catch glimpses of very solid play when the Dukes played at Aurora in that terrific regular season finale. Personally, I think Nebraska was brilliant in their decision to offer this young after one look. I'm hearing Iowa and UCLA have already offered too.
There is no better place for Masry Mapieu to further his football skills than York high school. The Dukes have one of the finest prep football coaches alive today and a staff that keeps the Dukes in the thick of the playoff hunt year after year.
All I can say is it will be a thrill to watch this young man develop over the next 2 seasons and the first opportunity is coming up August 26th when defending Class B champion Elkhorn South comes to York.
I'm already getting butterflies.