WOLBACH, AMERICA — The rankings took a special trip on Friday to Wolbach, population who knows how much, but home to the best little football setting we have seen in awhile.
No bars on your cell phone — the chain gang said you needed Viaero — so you can just sit back and not worry about tweeting the next touchdown or big play. Just watch. Jot down some notes, take a few pictures.
But, most importantly, enjoy the great football and great coaching between Central Valley and Humphrey St. Francis. Yeah, this 29-12 CV win had a quarterfinal, if not semifinal, feel to it. In the end, the Cougars were just too much for HSF which got off the bus with 15 players.
CV coach Jess Rother — whose team traveled to play Fremont Mills, IA last week — looked firmly like a championship contender in the victory. He said that three hour trip, and 25-16 victory, to face Nebraska commit Seth Malcolm was big for his team’s confidence.
“That was a great game for us last week,” Rother said. “It built our confidence to know we could shut (St. Francis) down. We are thankful our administration was able to get it worked out for us. It was probably the most team bonding we have done in a long time.”
The Cougars bonded well on Friday night, too. They can beat you in multiple ways, which will make them a tough out.
Worried about the speed on the outside? The Cougar backfield will run right at you with quarterback Ty Nekoliczak and backs Jackson McIntyre and Morgan Behnk.
Adjust to that at halftime, like St. Francis did down 15-7? CV will attack you on the edge with Behnk, Carson Corman and Kyle Oakley. Nekoliczak was 13-22 for 141 yards. They had 15 first downs (7 rush, 8 pass).
“What’s really nice is we feel like we can run the ball or pass the ball depending on what they give you,” Rother said. “Jason (McIntyre) does a really great job of calling the plays. He’s like another head coach taking care of the offense.”
Behnk and Oakley also showcased their speed and first step on defense playing the down defensive end position and harassing talented St. Francis quarterback Tanner Pfeifer all night. Pfeifer had just 28 yards on 25 carries and he was tackled in the backfield nine times, seven in the second half.
“Those guys are cowboys, they get after it,” Rother said. “They read and aren’t afraid to stick their nose into things. I coached their dad and an uncle when I first came to Wolbach so those guys stay on me to work them pretty good.”
Yes, football is a family affair for Central Valley, that’s for sure. And, their Friday night scene — also centered around community and family — is one worth capturing.
On with the rankings.
- Bellevue West (5-0). Last week: 1. When the Birds get to play, they handle their business that’s for sure. Columbus hung around a little too long for the ‘Birds liking. Playoffs after a bye week off.
- Omaha Westside (8-0). Last week: 2. Really impressive win over Overland Park (KS) St. Thomas Aquinas, 49-6. Warriors appear more than ready for finals run. Seeded second in A bracket.
- Millard South (6-1). Last week: 3. Blitzed North Star 64-0.
- Lincoln Southeast (7-0). Last week: 4. Cancelled game with Gretna. Earned this seed in playoffs.
- Elkhorn South (6-1). Last week: 5. Needed overtime to beat Kearney 28-21. Also earned this seed in the playoffs.
- Omaha Creighton Prep (5-2). Last week: 6. Earned their bye, but Millard North looms. That could be an interesting match up.
- Gretna (6-1). Last week: 7. Class A committee seeded the Dragons 8th and we don’t really have much argument with that to be honest. But, we’ll keep them here.
- Lincoln East (5-2). Last week: 8. Sprinted past Lincoln Northeast 56-0. Now a rest before facing either North Platte or Lincoln High.
- Kearney (2-4). Last week: 9. Lost in overtime to No. 5 Elkhorn South. The other losses: Southeast, Westside, Bellevue West. Could travel to Gretna for the round of 16.
- North Platte (5-2). Last week: NR. Edged previous No. 10 Millard West to earn this ranking. Bulldogs get Lincoln High in playoffs.
Comments: We basically agree with the Class A playoff committee. Kudos to all Class A schools for being willing to adjust their playoff and district procedures to put together the 24-team bracket this year. Well done.
- Omaha Skutt (6-2). Last week: 1. Beat Mt. Michael. Double chin strap, pre-playoff test against Elkhorn this week.
- Bennington (7-1). Last week: 2. Badgers have Gross standing between themselves, 8-1 and the top seed in the Class B playoffs.
- Norris (7-1). Last week: 3. After 35-7 trouncing of Class A Lincoln Pius, Titans have a district title tilt with Waverly this week.
- Elkhorn (6-2). Last week: 4. Still not sure anyone wants to play the Antlers in the playoffs.
- Grand Island Northwest (5-2). Last week: 10. Have we moved the Vikings up too far? It’s possible, but feel like we need to keep them ahead of Waverly and Aurora. And, they won’t keep this ranking if they lose to Hastings, who had a week of rest.
- Waverly (6-2). Last week: 6. After they lost to Northwest we told you about Reed Manstedt’s passionate plea that his staff would get them unscathed to a district final game with Norris. The Vikings did just that.
- Aurora (5-3). Last week: 5. Huskies win streak comes to an end after losing to Northwest 36-29 on a late Viking score. Get Seward this week and the Jays are battling for one of those last spots. Can’t let up.
- Hastings (6-1). Last week: 7. Tigers lose a spot for not playing to make room for the Northwest jump after beating Aurora. They get to settle it on the field on Friday.
- Plattsmouth (6-2). Last week: 8. Regular season over and the Devils can scout on Friday after a 35-21 win over Beatrice. They’ll likely be interested in Waverly, Norris and Northwest, Hastings.
- McCook (5-2). Last week: NR. Bison re-enter after 13-0 blanking of No. 9 Scottsbluff. Losses are to Hastings and Aurora.
Comments: These playoffs are going to be interesting.
- Pierce (7-0). Last week: 1. Man. Not many will hang a 70-12 win on Battle Creek, but the Jays did. Braves are in line for a playoff spot, too.
- Ashland-Greenwood (8-0). Last week: 2. It’s been a pretty impressive run for the Jays, who stand first in the points and have Platteview to stay unbeaten.
- St. Paul (7-1). Last week: 3. Double overtime win over Adams Central on Friday night the Wildcats are poised for a top-four seed in the playoffs.
- Kearney Catholic (6-1). Last week: 4. Cozad should be mad as a hornet this week. Stars need to be ready.
- Adams Central (6-2). Last week: 5. Not penalizing AC for the loss to St. Paul as they still have a win over Wahoo. Fillmore Central this week and hopefully a chance to get healthier.
- Auburn (6-1). Last week: 7. Rolled past Nebraska City. Moved ahead of Wahoo as that week one, 21-20 loss to Ashland-Greenwood keeps weighing more and more on our mind.
- Wahoo (6-2). Last week: 8. Bounced back from A-G loss with a 41-0 win over Raymond Central who is battling for a playoff spot.
- Wayne (6-2). Last week: 9. Will get to put a good grade on the Devils when they play top-ranked Pierce this week.
- Lincoln Christian (7-1). Last week: 10. We said it last week, we’ll say it again. An 8-1 Lincoln Christian would be a great playoff story.
- Cozad (6-2). Last week: 6. Lost to Broken Bow, but let’s give the 3-5 Indians some proper respect. Lost their first four under new coach Carlie Wells to Ogallala, St. Paul, Gothenburg and Ord. Also a loss to Kearney Catholic. Put it all together against the Makers, who now have to travel to Kearney this week.
Comments: Next in line are Gothenburg (who has won the west district and will be in the playoffs) and Logan View/Scribner-Snyder. ‘Burg out based on 35-7 loss to Cozad and LV/SS out based on 14-10 loss to Wayne. Both, however, are district champs.
- Ord (8-0). Last week: 2. Beat Centura 62-6 on Friday. No big deal other than it appears the Centurions (4-4) could make the playoffs. Mercy.
- Fremont Bergan (8-0). Last week: 3. Welp, the Knights knocked off Oakland-Craig on Friday 28-24 and firmly put themselves in the title race. They also appear to have the inside track on the top seed.
- Oakland-Craig (7-1). Last week: 1. Some people say a loss can be the best thing that happens to a team. Knights definitely good enough to take that lesson to heart.
- David City Aquinas (6-2). Last week: 4. Rolled past BRLD, but at 8th in the points, on the edge of a home playoff game.
- Norfolk Catholic (4-2). Last week: 5. Passed first pre-playoff test over Crofton, 35-14. Now, Hartington Cedar Catholic. NC is going to be a tough early round draw for someone.
- Sutton (4-2). Last week: 7. Mustangs have lost three in a row to Covid, but they get one back on Monday, when they play Sandy Creek which was originally scheduled for October 2nd. MONDAY NIGHT CLAY COUNTY FOOTBALL. Then, Doniphan-Trumbull on Friday.
- Hartington Cedar Catholic (7-1). Last week: 7. Big one with No. 5 Norfolk Catholic on Friday.
- Yutan (7-1). Last week: 8. Edged Neumann 14-7 on Friday. Now need to get past Centennial this week. Guess what? The sneaky tough Chieftains are third in the points.
- Wilber-Clatonia (5-1). Last week: 10. Finish season at Lincoln Lutheran who just nipped Centennial in the wild C2-1 which has an outside shot at five playoff qualifiers.
- Wahoo Neumann (4-3). Last week: 9. Lost by a touchdown to Yutan, but still reluctant to move them out of here for GICC, Bridgeport or North Platte St. Pat’s. The playoffs could solve our dilemma. See below.
Comments: A chance we see Bridgeport and North Platte St. Pat’s each go 8-1 out west. The issue? Previous No. 10 GICC (5-3) beat St. Pat’s who beat Bridgeport.
- Burwell (8-0). Last week: 1. Week eight opponent Amherst got a home game this week. The Longhorns just beat them 62-19 on Friday. Their last six opponents all finished 4-4 or better. Think the ‘Horns are ready for another run?
- Cross County (8-0). Last week: 2. Cougars faced six playoff qualifiers in eight outings and scored less than 40 points just once. And, when they did? Shutout Howells-Dodge, 28-0.
- Dundy County-Stratton (7-0). Last week: 3. Three straight wins over playoff qualifiers by a combined score of 184-28. Okay.
- Wakefield (7-0). Last week: 4. In seven games, the Trojans beat five playoff qualifiers, but their season is over due to enrollment. To stay here? Need one of the four unbeatens to maybe get tripped up before the semis and a run from LHNE or Stanton would be nice.
- Tri-County (7-0). Last week: 5. Trojans ran the clock on their sixth opponent in seven tries. They look locked and loaded or a deep run over the next few weeks.
- Lutheran High Northeast (7-1). Last week: 6. Won a 16-8 grinder over LCC to end the season. They get Elmwood-Murdock in the qualifying round.
- Neligh-Oakdale (7-1). Last week: 8. N-O still putting up points at a dizzying pace. Excellent profile win over Nebraska Christian, 62-18 on Friday afternoon. Elkhorn Valley to open the playoffs.
- Arcadia-Loup City (5-3). Last week: 9. Getting healthy. Only loss since week two is to top-ranked Burwell.
- Stanton (6-1). Last week: 10. Four of six wins over opening round qualifiers, including 60-22 over GACC on Friday. Will play Exeter-Milligan/Friend on Thursday.
- Elm Creek (7-1). Last week: NR. We bring back the Buffaloes, who always seem ready for the playoffs and had been held back since a week three loss to Amherst. Elm Creek beat four playoff qualifiers, including ALC in week one.
Comments: Fans got a great reward when the top four teams (Burwell, Cross County, DCS and Tri-County) all slotted into the top-four seeds in the playoffs. Should be a fun October, November trip.
- BDS (7-0). Last week: 1. Beat Lawrence-Nelson 52-18. Opening round playoff game with Elgin Public/Pope John (3-5) on Thursday.
- Osceola (7-0). Last week: 2. Beat their old buddies at High Plains 77-0. The Bulldogs have been nothing but impressive, scoring over 60 points every time out. Sadly, the scheduled did them no favors and if they win in the qualifying round, they might be the 8th seed.
- Central Valley (7-0). Last week: 5. Cougars are the real deal up close and personal. Controlled nearly the whole game in 29-12 win over then-No. 3 Humphrey St. Francis. Excellent line play with weapons all around and a defense built around speed.
- Falls City Sacred Heart (6-1). Last week: 4. Beat Diller-Odell 52-6 and earned a qualifying round game with Fullerton. The Irish — should they win — will slot in to the overall No. 1 seed.
- Sandhills/Thedford (8-0). Last week: 8. S/T may have racked up one of the most impressive D-2 wins of the season in a 77-24 romp over Pleasanton, which advanced to last years finals. They have beat three straight qualifying round teams and get Axtell on Thursday.
- Kenesaw (6-1). Last week: 6. Impressive win over Palmer who has played, maybe, the toughest schedule in the class. They get to do it all over again on Thursday in the opening round. Blue Devils also have early win over Loomis.
- Humphrey St. Francis (7-1). Last week: 3. The Flyers suited up just 15 players against Central Valley and stayed in the game with the Cougars way longer than it appeared they would. Flyers are well coached, as always. They’ll have everyone’s full attention.
- O’Neill St. Mary’s (8-0). Last week: 9. Cardinals still rolling.
- Loomis (7-1). Last week: 10. Moving up as we knock Pleasanton out based on common opponent result with qualifier Axtell.
- Allen (6-0). Last week: NR. Giving the Eagles a shot here, even though it’d be super nice to have had their game with Wynot to grade. Wynot (5-1) and unranked based on early loss to Humphrey St. Francis. Both Allen and Wynot have points ahead of Osceola and the Flyers.
Comments: Shake ups based on Central Valley’s win over HSF and Sandhills/Thedford’s win over Pleasanton. This re-seed is going to cause some really interesting round of 16 and quarterfinal matchups.
- McCool Junction (7-0). Last week: 1. Mustangs seem to be in a class by themselves right now. An 80-0 win over Hampton on Friday. They get Dorchester (6-1) this week, so that may give us an indication of what the playoffs might hold.
- Sterling (7-0). Last week: 2. The Jets are playing defense — they haven’t given up 20 points yet. And the offense is flying — pun intended — having scored 50 points in six of seven games.
- Stuart (5-0). Last week: 3. Blanked Heartland Lutheran 46-0. Really good test with 6-1 Spalding Academy this week.
- Potter-Dix (7-0). Last week: 4. Rolled past Banner County, and get Creek Valley this week in a playoff tune up.
- Red Cloud (6-0). Last week: 5. Their 24-13 win over Pawnee City gives us a little pause based on some other scores, but we’ll leave the Warriors here. Silver Lake before the playoffs.
- Creek Valley (6-1). Last week: 6. Beat South Platte 42-30 and it appears the game with Potter-Dix this week could determine the second seed in the 6-man bracket.
- Arthur County (5-2). Last week: 7. Likely played the toughest schedule in the state and still number one in the points. Will need to beat South Platte to stay there.
- Cody-Kilgore (3-2). Last week: 8. Lost another one to Covid (v. Crawford) on Friday and will finish the season with Hay Springs.
- Sumner-Eddyville-Miller (5-1). Last week: 8. Unfortunately lost their game to Southwest due to Covid. Scheduled to host No. 10 Paxton to finish the season and that game still in the air.
- Paxton (5-2). Last week: 10. Tigers have won four in a row. Game with S-E-M would be a good pre-playoff gauge. Looks like they’ll need a win to get a home game in the playoffs.
Comments: The playoff bracket will be an interesting discussion. Stuart is just outside a home game right now, but a win over Spalding Academy (6-1) could fix that it appears. Also looks like Paxton and S-E-M are playing for a home game. The really interesting quandary? Sterling and McCool at five and six in the points.