The NENextt 2019 Super-State Team was compiled by NENextt owner Ross Halford.
Players selected by in-person observation, online film, statistical production and feedback from coaches and fans. I saw almost every one of these players in person and watched well over 30 freshman teams throughout the fall, plus reviewed numerous video clips submitted. We looked at every corner of the state from Chadron, North Platte, Gering, Kearney, Aurora to the Lincoln and Omaha Metro areas. In all, there are approximately 80 schools in the state represented with a player on the Super State team or honorable mention list. These are your best 9th grade players in Nebraska.
It was a very challenging decision on selecting an overall state Freshman of the Year for 2019. There were three primary candidates that emerged during the season and to no surprise they were all right at the top of the initial C/O 2023 rankings. Following up on last year’s selection of Waverly lineman Trevor Brown, this year’s honoree is Gretna gunslinger Zane Flores.
Flores is a well known prospect, having seen incredible success on the youth level for many years. He was elevated to the starting QB position early in the season for the Dragons and got better and better each week. He threw for nearly 1,250 yards in nine games against the highest level of competition in Nebraska-despite playing on a 3-6 team. That kind of production is what separates him out as the NENextt 2019 State Player of the Year.
His best game was showcased on a Thursday night televised meeting against Omaha Burke where he threw for 235 yards, announcing his presence to the rest of the state and showing incredible poise against a very good Bulldog defense. While not terribly mobile (at least he doesn’t showcase it much or isn’t forced to), Flores has huge upside in the future for colleges looking for a signal caller that is a real student of the game and position.
If the team improves around him, which it should, he could really put up some eye-popping numbers over the next three seasons. Being a starting freshman QB in Class A is really difficult-doing it at a more than serviceable level is even tougher. I can only wonder about what a player like this might look like in three more seasons as a senior.
The offense carries two QBs as our goal is to find the very best players and strong consideration for POY went to Elkhorn South QB Cole Eaton who battled Flores in last year’s MYFL semifinal matchup in 8th grade. Eaton is a superb athlete that accounted for nearly 1,500 total yards in leading the unbeaten Storm freshman team. He can do a bit of everything-running and passing and even put some vicious hits on from his defensive back position.
His showcase game was against a very tough Papillion-South team where he simply took over the game and handed the Titans their only loss of the season. Eaton is poised to challenge for the varsity QB spot next year with the graduation of Elliott Brown and was elevated to varsity after the freshman season concluded. Eaton is a super athlete and tremendous competitor-sis future may be in baseball though as he already has the attention of major colleges and should emerge as a household name in that sport this coming spring. Eaton began the season as the 2nd rated prospect in 2023 and did nothing to diminish his stock this fall. He will give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares the next three seasons-think former Storm QB Braden Wright but better. This is one exceptional multi-sport athlete.
One that was injured early in the year is Skutt’s Wyatt Archer who looks like the next standout behind center for the Skyhawks.
At the RB spots, there were really three that stood out among all the rest that I was able to observe and all three have outstanding next level potential. In strong consideration for overall POY was Lincoln Southeast’s Max Buettenback.
The son of former Husker Ben Buettenback and nephew of former Cornhusker Matt Vrzal, tore up the 9th grade circuit like nobody I’ve seen in the past three years. He scored nearly every time he touched the ball when I saw him against Kearney and Lincoln Southwest. His future beyond anything in HS would appear to be at LB like his father played in Lincoln but his best attribute appears to be competitive spirit. Was elevated to varsity after the freshman season and was able to get carries against Lincoln Northeast in the season finale. With some weight room work, Buettenback is going to be an absolute workhorse for the Knights over the next three seasons and should start to draw some attention from colleges sooner rather than later.
Papilion-LaVista South’s Devyn Jones is a fantastic combination of speed and power and should be one of the state’s top players in short time. He’s got great balance and vision and was featured on one of the state’s best 9th grade teams. The last 9th grade game this year was reserved to see Omaha Northwest’s Murry “Gene” Moore, a standout that I’m told all of the Omaha schools wanted. Despite not playing an elite level of competition, there’s no doubt about his talent level. Strong and powerfully built, he probably could have scored on every play in the game I watched, if the Huskies gave him the ball more. He’s not quite as big as Zander Gray but some have compared him to the former North High standout. The great thing about Moore’s selection is that other people were able to alert me to this young guy so many were obviously able to identify him as a great talent. Not sure what his future will hold at Northwest, which has been a lower tier program for many years, but there’s no doubt he’s one of the very best 9th grade RBs I saw this year.
I asked some of my contacts out west who the next Garrett Nelson was in the panhandle and one response I got back mentioned Gering’s Zayden Sharp, a 6’3 185 lb speedster who unfortunately ended up injured this season-so definitely one to watch going forward. There were two small school players that eclipsed 1,000 yards: St. Edwards’ Will Lawrence and Eustis-Farnam’s Colton Stubbs.
Last year was a very special class for 9th grade linemen in the state and this season it was a struggle to find comparable talent although there are some excellent prospects in the trenches. No question that Elkhorn’s Aidan Betz, the No. 1 overall 2023 prospect on the initial ratings, is right at the top of the list Betz started on both sides of the ball from the season opener against Elkhorn South, thrown right into the fire against the likes of Isaac Zatechka, and more than held his own. He battled Burke’s Caleb Robinson and dominated against Norfolk and Columbus. He’s got a great frame and wingspan and at 14 years old is just scratching the surface of his potential. He is one of the few players trained by former Husker lineman Matt Vrzal and should be a real force for the Antlers over the next three years. You’ll want to watch him in the spring when he throws the shot and discus as well!
Gunnar Gottula looks like he can be a dominant force for LSE going forward. The son of coach Ryan Gottula has a huge frame and plays with a nasty disposition-what else do you expect from a Knight lineman. Really liked the film of Titus Richardson of Fremont, a real mauler that led the Tigers to a 7-1 season. While not as tall as his older brother, he was the best of a promising Tiger front that has multiple players on the Honorable Mention list.
I initially had Grand Island’s Bo Douglass on the DL but he has just as much promise on the offensive side of the ball. He has a frame to easily carry 280 lbs by the time he’s a senior and was a key cog in the 7-1 Islanders freshman team.
Aurora’s Jack Allen is so versatile he played both line and linebacker for the unbeaten Aurora group. Watching him play, I was so intrigued by what this great looking athlete might eventually be and where his talents might take him. The cousin of current Husker Austin Allen, Jack should be a dominant force at wherever Coach Peterson decides is his best position but there’s a ton of promise there. He moved to linebacker after promising classmate Britton Kemling was injured before the season started.
Jude Collingham of York will be one to watch in development over the next few years-there were few 9th graders that are 6’4 and 270 and if Coach Snodgrass can coach him up, he’ll start drawing some major attention, along with several other really big players on the Dukes team. Another to watch is 6’5 210 Mason Goldman of Gretna who I’m told wears a size 16 shoe already and could really fill into a major college prospect.
I love the WR group as a whole and while not as productive stats-wise as the class from a year ago, you have to love the potential for a few of these players to be prime recruiting prospects over the next few seasons. Brahmer, son of Pierce coach Mark Brahmer, is a 6’4 nightmare matchup that may draw some comparisons to former Bluejay and Husker Matt Herian. Brahmer did miss at least half of the season due to a broken collarbone but has returned in time for the playoffs catching touchdown passes for the state semifinal Pierce team. Maybe, looking across the board, there’s not a prospect with more upside than Brahmer because you can’t teach that size and athleticism. Hoefs was a prospect that was identified in the spring and he ended the season with 700 yards of total offense and 28 tackles and 2 INT on defense for Lincoln Lutheran. Once he got settled into the varsity game, he kept getting better and better. Rucker is a superb athlete that played WR and DE but I think ultimately I like him at the WR spot. Just stand next to this kid and you’ll see Rucker has some serious potential to be a dominant player at the Class A level. One of a handful of Millard South 9th graders to be moved up to varsity at the end of the season. With the right training and work, the sky is absolutely the limit for Lance in terms of what he can be. I really like Blayke Moore of Gretna to be one of the very top recruited players in this class, especially when he reunites with his QB Zane Flores.
Just remember this-off of last year’s Super State team the first two players to receive D1 offers weren’t on the team although they were known. Being on the Super State team is not about forecasting where a player will eventually end up but it’s about where they are currently. Hopefully, many of these players listed will have the opportunity to continue their playing career beyond HS. Alex Draper of Platteview is another to watch in the future-he was one of the state’s leaders in receiving yards and is another great baseball prospect for 2023.
The all-purpose player is McCook’s Jacob Gomez-Wilson, a superb RB and all-around talent. I simply had to put him somewhere on the team because of his big play ability. Wilson led the Bison freshman to an unbeaten season and had to have been around the 1,000 yard mark rushing based on those I’ve talked to from McCook. Along with Nick Colvert and Lachlan Wilmers, he’s probably the best of the Class B 9th grade backs and an elite player for the future for Coach Jeff Gross.
An outstanding group of 15 defenders is led by the very tough linebacker Trace Marco of Papillion-LaVista South, the NENextt 9th grade defensive POY. Marco isn’t the tallest player and may not grow much more in height but he’s a football player through and through. He mans that linebacker spot with his wrestling background mentality and was the only Titan freshman brought up to varsity very early in the season. He is a pure pleasure to watch play the position with his advanced understanding of the game and ability to diagnose and react to a play like a senior would. There may have been better defenders but Marco was as good as any freshman I’ve seen on defense in three years. A few seasons ago there was a player from Clemson named Ben Boulware and that’s who Trace reminds me of. Great player that will be a real leader on that Titan team going forward.
On the DL, three standouts from the MYFL from a year ago are honored. Yutan’s Quran Cook, an unblockable high-motor wrestler that played youth football in Gretna, started for the Chieftans playoff team at C and NG from game one. He ended up with 15 tackles and 3 TFL in 6 games (missed regular season finale). Should be a dominant force for what should be a very good Yutan team next season and might draw comparisons to former standout Chieftan Colton Feist who walked on to Nebraska a few years ago
Elkhorn South’s Parker Leise, son of former Husker Daryl Leise, played more of an OLB position for the unbeaten Storm team. He’s a crazy good athlete with amazing upside and should be a very disruptive force for Coach Rosenberg in the near future. Was one of a few select freshmen players to be brought up to the Storm varsity team at the end of the year.
Sam Sledge is another son of a former Husker-his father Bob is a coach at Prep and played for Coach Osborne in the late 80s. Sam, who played QB last year for the Jays 8th grade team, flourished at DL and along with Pargo, were the only two 9th graders moved up to varsity. At 6’3 240, he’s got great upside and played meaningful snaps throughout the season.
Eli Kehler from McCook was a dominant two-way lineman for the unbeaten Bison and someone that Coach Gross calls one of the best line prospects he’s had in years. Kehler is an explosive high motor wrecking machine whose best game came against Hastings where he had 3 sacks and 6 TFL. There’s a reason why Gomez-Wilson and Dugger piled up those stats-they ran behind Kehler almost the entire season.
Linebacker was perhaps the deepest position across the state in this year’s class so we decided to carry five. Besides Marco, Prep’s Jon Pargo was moved up to varsity early and was a real standout on special teams. His speed is something of a sight to see and he also had a very good year on JV at the RB spot. I assure you that this young guy with a great infectious attitude, will be a major recruiting target in the next few seasons. I believe with his measurables and potential that he could be the first player from this class to get a scholarship offer, much like Devon Jackson of Burke did this season.
Jace Chrisman was a real star on both sides of the ball for the 7-1 Islanders group. Doubling up as RB, he was simply too good and too productive to be left off the team. Coach Tomlin has a whole bunch of studs to work with in this group and Chrisman is as good as any of them.
Hard hitting Eli Small was the initial 3rd rated prospect for 2023 and was the only freshman on the Elkhorn South varsity team during the regular season. He’s a real throwback player with a nose for the ball and great instincts. Like his good friend Cole Eaton, Small is an elite baseball prospect (catcher) that just recently received an offer from Notre Dame, even though he has yet to play a HS game.
Bullion was one of two players from Central that landed on varsity and the former Millard youth football standout will probably be starting at linebacker for the Eagles next year after getting plenty of snaps this season. This kid looks like a weight room warrior and I’m told many schools from the Metro were after his services last year before he decided on a high school. Teitum Tuioti and Lance Hesselgesser, along with Buettenback, formed the core of the best freshman linebacking group in the state at LSE and both deserved strong consideration for the Super State team. Both are hard hitting and tenacious defenders on the state’s best 9th grade defensive team.
Grand Island Northwest’s Victor Isele at 6’2 220 is a raw prospect that could end up being a big-time college recruit in a short time. Isele is an example of a player that has tremendous upside but that wasn’t necessarily as developed as the top selections here.
The 2019 Super State secondary is led by a pair of Papio-South Titans in Brady Fitzpatrick and Broden Bahl. Fitzpatrick also made plays with his feet from his QB position and his on-field speed and ability to break away from defenses was as good as I saw this year. Simply too fine of a player to be left off the team at some position. He was also a standout on the 14U Omaha Tigers baseball team with Eaton and Small and will soon be causing major headaches on the varsity gridiron level. Bahl, the younger brother of Papillion-LaVista softball standout and future D1 athlete Jordyn Bahl, was a great two-way player at receiver and DB for PLVS and has the look of a serious next level prospect in a few seasons, with his playmaking ability and physical play. He’s got the physical attributes that colleges covet and tons of room to grow.
Millard South’s Brock Murtaugh excelled despite playing a large part of the season with a broken hand. The son of former Prep standout and Husker Ryan Murtaugh carried over production from the 8th grade Adidas Patriots team and was elevated to varsity after the freshman season concluded. In a few years, if he stays healthy, Murtaugh should develop into a highly sought after player.
Safety Tre Brown of Omaha North was one of three Vikings to be promoted to varsity and many around the program compare him to current senior Marques Sigle, who has committed to FBS power North Dakota State. With physical development he’s got as high of a ceiling as anyone in this class-an incredibly hard worker that draws praise for doing the right things on and off the field.
Aurora’s Carlos Colazzo was another outstanding two-way talent that simply had to have a spot on the Super State team. The do-it-all, multi-talented Colazzo couldn’t be stopped from his RB position and played safety like a seasoned veteran. Just an outstanding football player that is going to do serious damage for Aurora over the rest of his HS career. Sometimes when you go watch one player, you end up finding another diamond in the rough that isn’t on the radar.
Such was the case for playmaking Mason Blankenship of Omaha Northwest, an athletic all-purpose player that really shined when I watched him late in the season, while on a trip to watch Murry Moore. Actually hit an opposing player so hard he broke his own helmet. Just watching Blankenship he’s a hard nosed player that makes things happen on both sides of the ball-maybe the next Matt Aden, a former Husky that walked on to Nebraska in 1994. Blankenship looked like the most advanced defensive back I saw all season and was an absolute must include on this year’s Super State team.
No question that the talent and potential of Omaha North’s Zyon Knox is as good as anyone in this class (see bio up on site) but he missed some time this year for various reasons and I’m hoping that he goes all-in on the football side of things in the future because he has the ability to be as good you’ll see around here.
NENextt Nebraska Super State Freshman Team 2019
Nebraska Freshman/Offensive Player of the Year: Zane Flores, Gretna QB
Super State Offense
QB-Cole Eaton, Elkhorn South 6’ 165
QB-Zane Flores, Gretna 6’1 175
RB-Max Buettenback, Lincoln SE 6’ 170
RB-Murry Moore, Omaha Northwest 5’10 190
RB-Devyn Jones, Papillion LaVista South 5’11 175
OL-Aidan Betz, Elkhorn 6’3 255
OL-Bo Douglass, Grand Island 6’2 220
OL-Gunnar Gottula, Lincoln SE 6’4 240
OL-Titus Richardson, Fremont 6’0 260
OL-Jack Allen, Aurora 6’1 200
WR-Garrett Hoefs, Lincoln Lutheran 6’1 180
WR-Ben Brahmer, Pierce 6’3 180
WR-Lance Rucker, Millard South 6’1 190
UTL-Jacob Gomez-Wilson, McCook 5’10 170
Defensive Player of the Year: Trace Marco, Papillion-LaVista South LB
Super State Defense
DL-Sam Sledge, Omaha Creighton Prep 6’3 240
DL-Quran Cook, Yutan 6’ 215
DL-Eli Kehler, McCook OL/DL 6’ 215
DL-Parker Leise, Elkhorn South 6’2 190
LB-Eli Small, Elkhorn South 6’ 175
LB-Jon Pargo, Omaha Creighton Prep 5’11 160
LB-Trace Marco, Papillion-LaVista South 5’11 170
LB-Jace Chrisman, Grand Island 6’ 190
LB-J’Dyn Bullion, Omaha Central 6′ 205
DB-Brady Fitzpatrick, Papillion-LaVista South 5’11 150
DB-Brock Murtaugh, Millard South 6’ 160
DB-Trevionne Brown, Omaha North 5’8 140
DB-Broden Bahl, Papillion-LaVista South 6’ 160
DB-Carlos Collazo, Aurora 5’10 170
DB-Mason Blankenship, Omaha Northwest 5’9 160
Class A: Benny Alfaro, Fremont RB/LB; Hudson Cunnings, Fremont QB; Jackson Cyza, Fremont WR/DB; Caleb Wagner, Fremont OL/DL; Callen Miller, Fremont OL/DL; Zyon Knox, Omaha North RB/DB; Te’shaun Porter, Omaha North RB/LB; Sherdale Green, Omaha North RB/LB; Gio Contreras, Bellevue West RB; Caleb Jacobmeier, Bellevue West ATH; Cohen Evans, Grand Island QB; Alex Dzingle, Grand Island RB/DB; Brett Wemhoff, Grand Island LB; TK Barnett, Bellevue East QB; Kolten Tilford, North Platte RB/DB; Matthew Musselman, North Platte OL/DL; Hanan Young, Lincoln Northeast OL/DL; Malachi Coleman, Lincoln East WR; Brandt Pickrell, Millard West TE/DE; Hudson Meier, Millard West OL/DL; Zach Cross, Millard West OL/DL; Brady Brau, Millard West QB/DB; Creighton Scholting, Millard West ATH; Reid Hazen, Millard West LB; Henry Supenski, Papillion-LaVista South OL/DL; Tyson Boganowski, Papillion-LaVista South WR; Teivis Tuioti, Lincoln SE/LB; Lance Hesselgesser, Lincoln SE LB; Manny Appleget, Lincoln SE WR; Rocco Marcelino, Omaha Creighton Prep TE/DL; AJ Jones, Omaha Creighton Prep WR; Charlie Quaintance, Millard North QB; Chris Frazier, Millard North OL/DL; Barrett Luce, Millard North OL/DL; Michael Begley, Millard North OL/DL; Max Hogan, Millard North OL/DL; Noah Boganowski, Millard North ATH; Kaden Daniel, Millard South WR/DB; Turner Tupper, Millard South RB; Braxton Lind, Millard South RB/LB; Camden Kozeal, Millard South QB; Zach Flegel, Millard South OL/DL; Grant Renken, Millard South LB; Bryson Zimmerman, Millard South OL/DL; Blayke Moore, Gretna WR; Harrison Weber, Gretna RB; Korver Demma, Gretna TE/DE; Mason Goldman, Gretna OL/DL; Hudson Bertrand, Kearney WR/LB; Aiden Mountain, Elkhorn RB; Liam Blaser, Columbus RB; Cayden Echternach, Omaha Burke TE/LB; AJ Shade, Omaha Burke RB; Jackson Moeller-Swan, Elkhorn South WR/DB; Broc Songster, Elkhorn South OL/DL; Mason Cain, Elkhorn South RB/LB; Tyler Stewart, Omaha Burke QB; Kaalo Evans, Lincoln Southwest LL; Cooper Jackson, Lincoln Southwest RB; Tairan Rahe, Lincoln Southwest RB/DB; Collin Fritton, Lincoln Southwest QB; Matt Bohy, Lincoln Pius RB; Tyler Schnase, Lincoln Pius KR; Cole Skorupa, Lincoln Pius RB/LB; Jaylen Davis, Omaha Central QB.
Class B: Daven Naylor, Lexington QB; Tyler Douglass, Grand Island NW QB; Victor Isele, Grand Island NW ATH; Nick Colvert, Bennington RB; Tyler Crawford, Bennington QB; Isaac Conner, Bennington WR/DE; Marcus Lee, Bennington OL/DL; Noe Najera, Bennington OL/DL; Alex Foltz, Bennington LB; Adam Dugger, McCook QB; Hunter Travis, Blair QB; Shea Wendt, Blair WR; Dane Larsen, Blair RB/LB; Zayden Sharp, Gering RB; Tucker Timmerman, Beatrice TE/DE; Austin Phinney, York WR; Dalton Snodgrass, York DL; Jude Colingham, York OL/DL; Barrett Olson, York QB; Connor Smith, Aurora LB; Kobe Nachtigal, Aurora QB/DB; Dennis Martinez, Schuyler ATH; Barrett Stone, Norris RB/LB; Sean Fenoglio, Omaha Roncalli WR; Wyatt Yetter, Omaha Roncalli RB; Tyson Klein, Scottsbluff LB; Josiah Mobley, Scottsbluff QB; Henry Teunnisen, Omaha Gross QB; Jake Garcia, Omaha Gross RB/DB; Wyatt Archer, Omaha Skutt QB/DB; Lachlan Wilmers, Omaha Skutt RB/DB.
Class C: Abram Scholting, Pierce QB; Phillip Carstens, Battle Creek RB; Jacob Ottis, Battle Creek OL/DL; Hyatt Collins, Adams Central RB/LB; Grant Trausch, Adams Central RB/LB; Eli Boryca, Cozad TE/LB; Jackson Hinrichs, Holdrege QB; Cade Kirwan, Holdrege RB/LB; Xander Provance, Chadron LB; Coy Rosentreader, Wilber-Clatonia QB; Tyson Kreshel, Wilber-Clatonia LB; Wyatt Rowell, Auburn DL; Blake Allen, Auburn QB/LB; Logan Sobota, Ashland-Greenwood RB; Alex Draper, Platteview WR; Karter Kerkman, Norfolk Catholic WR; Mason Timmerman, Norfolk Catholic QB/DB; Kade McIntyre, Archbishop Bergan DB; Jason Clausen, Stanton RB; Keegan Theobald, Fillmore Central QB; Mason Kreikemeier, Raymond Central LB; Braeden Stull, Bridgeport ATH; Dawson Mollendor, Chase County RB/LB.
8 and 6-Man: Aiden Kuester, Neligh-Oakdale WR/DB; Kyler Cox, Maywood-Hayes Center QB; Luke Carritt, Mead QB; Cade Hosier, Elmwood-Murdock RB; Will Lawrence, St. Edward RB;Corbin Horner, Dundy County Stratton RB; Sam Fasso, Dundy County Stratton OL/DL; Colton Stubbs, Eustis-Farnam RB; Isaiah Zelasny, Osceola-High Plains RB; Jack Wemhoff, EPPJ LB; Gunner Mumford, Thayer Central OL/DL; Clayton Moore, Mullen QB/DB; Treven Wendt, Pleasanton WR; Andy Dominguez, Howells-Dodge DL.