Cole Ballard

Clark’s Corner: A can’t-miss tailback matchup; Is state softball due for a remodel?


Clark’s Corner, 10/19: Elkhorn South’s Cole Ballard and Omaha North’s Teshaun Porter have been churning out yards and TDs all season. Might they settle a debate on Friday?

Who is the best running back in Class A this year?

Is it Creighton Prep’s CharMar Brown, who is committed to North Dakota State? Maybe it’s Teshaun Porter of Omaha North? Is it Elkhorn South’s Cole Ballard, who is putting Tecmo Super Bowl to shame with some of his recent numbers?

That’s a debate likely to last through late November. The best part is two of those backs will be on the same field Friday night in Elkhorn.

Get ready for No. 2 Elkhorn South (8-0) and No. 7 Omaha North (6-2). Get ready for a show.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Ballard entered beast mode against Omaha Burke on Friday, finishing with seven first-half touchdowns, which tied a Class A state record.

Yes, seven! In the first half!

Ballard, a senior, rushed for 215 yards and five scores, caught a 72-yard touchdown and returned a punt for another TD. Ballard has been a touchdown machine this year, hitting paydirt 31 times.

Porter, meanwhile, is a 5-11, 200-pound punisher on the field. The senior, who committed to DII powerhouse Northwest Missouri State on Wednesday, has powered his way to 1,254 yards (156 per game) and 20 touchdowns as a senior.

Ballard and Porter are each averaging nine yards per tote. They both run behind strong offensive lines that feature a future DI star or two.

The Omaha North-Elkhorn South district finale lost some sizzle after the Grand Island knocked off the Vikings last week. But with Ballard and Porter on the field, this is the perfect game for run-the-ball guys everywhere.

Friday’s matchup is a nice pre-playoff meeting for the Vikings and Storm. If you need a rundown on the postseason picture, our Tony Chapman paints it very well here.

We meet again

Death, taxes and Falls City Sacred Heart and Humphrey St. Francis meeting in the state football playoffs.

The eight-man perennial powers will clash for the seventh time since 2012 when the postseason begins Thursday. This meeting will feel a bit different.

Typically, the Irish (4-4) and Flyers (5-3) meet deep into the playoffs. After enduring some growing pains, they’re meeting in the first round in 2022 as the eight and nine seeds in Humphrey.

FCSH, which has won eight state titles, hasn’t lost a first-round game since 2009. St. Francis, which has won five state titles, hasn’t lost in the first round since 2006. A long streak will end Thursday.

An interesting comparison

I found Steven Posey’s review of state softball tournaments in Nebraska and Iowa very interesting (and fair). You can find his Twitter thread below. The Bayard coach was a hitting coach in Iowa at one point, so he knows the lay of the land well, including state tournament backdrops.

Where Nebraska, according to Posey, has an edge over Iowa: Format and seeding.

Where Iowa has an edge: Fields (not surprising considering the fields at Bill Smith Complex are long overdue for surface improvements), concessions, seating, designated areas for college coaches and overall fan experience.

Though it has some drawbacks, many of them pointed out by Posey, Hastings has done a nice job hosting the tournament, and that includes some recent improvements like dugout expansions. The NSAA also does a great job with the tournament resources it has at its disposal.

However, softball continues to grow in numbers and popularity, and it is fair to ask if Nebraska is falling behind when it comes to state softball. Could Iowa, which plays softball in the summer, be a blueprint?

I think it’s time to see the sport’s growth reflected in a tournament that has so much untapped potential – whether that is continued improvements and expansion in Hastings, or moving the event to new facilities in other parts of the state.

You get a milestone! And you get a milestone!

It’s not rare for a team to have multiple players record some impressive milestones over the course of the season. But three in one day?

That’s what the Humphrey St. Francis volleyball team accomplished Saturday during conference tournament play.

Emma Baumgart reached 1,000 career assists, Kylee Wessel hit 1,000 career kills and Hannah Baumgart dug out career dig No. 1,000. All three are seniors.

The icing on the cake? The D-2 No. 4 Flyers won the Goldenrod Conference Tournament.

A special senior moment

Hannah Nadgwick likely thought her prep volleyball career was over after suffering a season-ending leg injury. Check out this moment from Tuesday on senior night at Elkhorn North:

A first at state softball

Those in Hastings last Friday will not forget Omaha Marian’s dramatic win against Gretna in the Class A final. There was another unforgettable moment in at state. For the first time in state tourney history, an all-female umpire crew took the field.

Congrats to Renee Williams, Jessica Schenck and Megan Herz for being the first of what we hope is many in big tournaments like state.

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