Last week we opened the 2020 rankings with a theme: physical. I think some teams have heard it. And, we’ll probably reward them. One thing we always learned, too, growing up around football was that sometimes it can be too easy to “get cute” as our favorite coach once said. That meant, for lack of a better word, that was do what is working and that makes sense.
So, with that, Hastings Tigers folks the new top ranking is all yours and we submit for you, likely seven, maybe eight, teams that could legitimately contend for the Class B championship. What’s it going to take: physical football, winning the line of scrimmage and turnover battle and great coaching.
“It’s nice to not have to always outscore people. It’s really nice to have consistent defense that teams can’t drive the field on us. We had plan to really try and stop their ‘off tackle’ runs. They really started pounding us down the middle, but our kids really made them work for everything they got.” — Northwest coach Kevin Stein after a 21-20 overtime win over Waverly
- Bellevue West (2-0). Last week: 1. The Birds still look like the team to beat to these eyes. Loads of talent. And, it appears, some new wrinkles with Keagan Johnson taking Wildcat snaps. Good luck stopping all the stuff on Coach Huffman’s play sheet.
- Omaha Westside (4-0). Last week: 2. The Warriors still look the part, too. Not sure who knocks them off until the calendar flips — twice. Will play St. Thomas Aquinas from Kansas City in a replacement game on October 16.
- Millard South (3-1). Last week: 3. Early resume keeps the Patriots here, despite loss to Bellevue West.
- Lincoln Southeast (4-0). Last week: 4. Had to hang on to be Prep after building a nice lead.
- Elkhorn South (3-1). Last week: 5. Now a chance to rattle of some wins — they’ll need them to stay here — before finishing with Gretna, Kearney and Lincoln Southeast.
- Millard West (1-2). Last week: 6.
- Kearney (0-2). Last week: 7.
- Gretna (4-0). Last week: 10. Dragons will be tested soon.
- Omaha Creighton Prep (1-2). Last week: 8.
- Millard North (1-3). Last week: NR. Has to be the Mustangs here after scoring on a late, controversial touchdown to beat previously unbeaten Lincoln East.
Comments: The bottom is a hodgepodge of teams we don’t know much about yet. Would seem that North Platte and Fremont could be next in line. The Tigers beat Grand Island in overtime, 22-21, on Friday night. Lincoln East, maybe?
- Hastings (4-0). Last week: 5. You know what happens when you are on the road to Alliance and you get a call at Sidney to turn around because of Covid? You get ranked No. 1 in your class. The Tigers will have to win them all to stay here.
- Norris (3-1). Last week: 2. Okay, look. We aren’t real sure what to do here, but Norris gets the nod based on the opening win over Elkhorn and the lead over Bennington in week three. Weak sauce? Maybe. Just what we are thinking based on Friday’s results.
- Elkhorn (3-1). Last week: 3. Elkhorn might have the best athletes and the best coach in the class — and maybe the playoffs will end up proving that — but until something happens to Norris they have to stay here.
- Omaha Skutt (3-1). Last week: 6. Skyhawks have bounced back well from the week two loss to Waverly and in the “what have you done for me lately” world we live in, find themselves ranked ahead of the Vikings after the gritty 28-25 win over Bennington on Friday.
- Bennington (3-1). Last week: 1.What will the Badgers have to do to stay here? Win out (save for Elkhorn), starting with a “knocking on the ratings door” Blair team on Friday. And, if they beat Elkhorn, another chance to move up.
- Grand Island Northwest (3-1). Last week: 7.
- Waverly (2-2). Last week: 4.
- Plattsmouth (4-0). Last week: 9.
- Ralston (2-1). Last week: NR.
- McCook (2-1). Last week: 8.
Comments: Northwest jumps a spot for 21-20 “upset” of Waverly, but they controlled almost all of that football game. McCook drops because of Ralston’s result with York, which leaves the rankings.
- Pierce (4-0). Last week: 1. What we wrote last week. State finals in 2019. Talent back. And we were super impressed with St. Paul. And we know what Pierce did to St. Paul. Also, coaching. Here until we get proven wrong.
- Adams Central (4-0). Nice win over Cozad on Friday, which props up the Patriots and doesn’t hurt the ‘Makers too much. Circling October 16 on the calendar.
- Ashland-Greenwood (4-0). Big 28-20 win over Wayne on Friday as, amazingly enough, we are down to just eight unbeatens in Class C-1. The Jays have one of them on Friday when they host Raymond Central.
- Wahoo (3-1). Still like the Warriors here. Gonna need to be 5-1 heading into October 9 game with Ashland-Greenwood.
- St. Paul (3-1). Last week: 6. Also circling October 16 on the calendar.
- Cozad (3-1). Last week: 7. Move up despite close loss to Adams Central.
- Wayne (3-1). Last week: 3.
- Kearney Catholic (2-1). Last week: 8.
- Auburn (3-1). Last week: 9.
- Lincoln Christian (4-0). Last week: NR. Entered season on an 18-game losing streak. Now, taking their four-game winning streak to Auburn on Friday.
Comments: Raymond Central, Ogallala, Mitchell and Chadron are all still unbeaten and unranked, but we need a better gauge. Kearney Catholic, Ogallala would have helped but was cancelled. Also get Mitchell against Chadron on Friday night.
- Oakland-Craig (4-0). Last week: 1. Talk at the coffee shop has the defensive coordinator in better standing after the Knights blanked Logan-Magnolia (IA) in a replacement game last week. That’s 3-for-4 in the shutout column. This week is the Aquinas veer. Double chin strap night.
- Ord (4-0). Last week: 2. With no disrespect to their opponents, it does not appear that much stands between the Chants and 9-0.
- David City Aquinas (4-0). Last week: 3. Had a battle with Crofton (probably not a better 1-2 team in Nebraska) last week. Another one coming on Friday.
- Fremont Bergan (4-0). Last week: 4. Bergan looks really solid right here, but still have Aquinas and O-C on the schedule. Good litmus test.
- Wilber-Clatonia (3-0). Last week: 5. Covid hit and they had to cancel with Sandy Creek this week. No matter.
- Sutton (3-1). Last week: 6.
- Wahoo Neumann (3-1). Last week: 7.
- Hartington Cedar Catholic (4-0). Last week: 8.
- Bridgeport (4-0). Last week: 9.
- Norfolk Catholic (1-2). Last week: 10.
Comments: It seems as though the cream is ranked here in Class C-2. We are watching Yutan (2-1) and Grand Island Central Catholic (2-2) to round out the bottom of the rankings. The Crusaders, especially, who lost their first two games (Sutton and Bergan) without standout receivers Isaac Herbek and Marcus Lowry.
- Burwell (4-0). Last week: 1. Won.
- Cross County (5-0). Last week: 2. Won.
- Dundy County-Stratton (3-0). Last week: 3. Won. Class of the “west”?
- Wakefield (4-0). Last week: 4. Big win over LHNE.
- Tri-County (4-0). Last week: 8. No one usually beats Dean Fillipi teams. And, if they do, it’s not 66-6. So, we reward the Trojans.
- Howells-Dodge (3-1). Last week: 6.
- Lutheran High Northeast (3-1). Last week: 5.
- Nebraska Christian (3-1). Last week: NR. The Eagles enter for losing if you can imagine that. They played Cross County really well and also beat Arcadia-Loup City in week two.
- Neligh-Oakdale (3-1). Last week: 10.
- Arcadia-Loup City (2-2). Last week: NR. Defeated Amherst 32-7, but we could have gone a bunch of ways here.
Comments: Quite frankly, after the top-five, we could throw about eight teams in a hat, the bottom five plus Amherst, Elm Creek, Stanton. Plenty of other 3-1 teams out there, though, that can make a name for themselves, too.
- BDS (4-0). Last week: 1. Have scored 56, 70, 50 and 80. It appears a date with Kenesaw on October 2 will be the undefeated test.
- Osceola (4-0). Last week: 2. Might be time for the “rankings” to get an up close look at the Dawg when they travel to Palmer on Friday. Someone might get a 3-5 Tiger team in the opening round of the playoffs and be sad they did.
- Humphrey St. Francis (4-0). Last week: 3. Coaches like Eric Kessler don’t look ahead, but the rankings do. That game with Central Valley on October 16th looks, uhhhh, fun.
- Falls City Sacred Heart (3-1). Last week: 4. Not much between Del Casteel and the Irish until they hit 7-1.
- Central Valley (4-0). Last week: 5. We got a hunch here on the Cougars. I guess they’ll get to prove us right or wrong. Jackson McIntyre a talented playmaker.
- Kenesaw (4-0). Last week: 6.
- Pleasanton (4-0). Last week: 7.
- Sandhills/Thedford (4-0). Last week: 8.
- O’Neill St. Mary’s (4-0). Last week: 9.
- Medicine Valley (4-0). Last week: 10.
Comments: Everybody won. So, this was kind of easy. Eyes on Creighton.
- McCool Junction (3-0). Last week: 1. Last year’s runner-up appears to be the clear front runner. Think we’ll just leave that comment here for awhile longer.
- Arthur County (4-0). Last week: 2. The Wolves are taking on all comers out west. Last week was Paxton, this week unbeaten Potter-Dix.
- Sterling (3-0). Last week: 3. Idle. Big pre-playoff game will be with 3-0 Dorchester on October 2nd.
- Stuart (2-0). Last week: 4. Snuck by Cody-Kilgore 20-18. Which…
- Cody-Kilgore (1-2). Last week: 5. …leaves the Cowboys right here, despite the record. But, time for some wins now.
- Red Cloud (3-0). Last week: 6. Idle. Big three weeks coming for the Warriors.
- Sumner-Eddyville-Miller (2-1). Last week: 9.
- Potter-Dix (3-0). Last week: 10.
- Franklin (3-0). Last week: NR
- Dorchester (3-0). Last week: NR.
Comments: Taking a flyer (wink, wink) on two of the last three unbeatens — Franklin and Dorchester. Also undefeated, Grand Island Heartland Lutheran (in the points, but with a “rescheduled game” loss to SEM) which has McCool Junction this week.
A Parting Shot(s)
One of the joys of sportswriting is sometimes listening in to the post game huddle and watching coaches really “coach.” Such was the joy I had on my face watching new father Reed Manstedt on Friday night after a 21-20 overtime gutwrencher to Northwest.
He shouldered all the blame. Told his boys they’d be better for the result of that game and they would do everything they could to fix the things that caused the loss.
And then he hugged Anthony Ruelas. He had just been beat for the winning touchdown by Northwest receiver Riley Anderson. And Manstedt was a true coach in this moment.
“You are the only player I’d want out there in that situation,” he said, lifting him up. It was a true moment of what high school football is all about and what it teaches.
Anthony is likely not going to play football for a living, ever. But, like Reed Manstedt, Anthony will be a dad and he’ll be a husband and one day he’s going to remember that night and what his coach taught him and he’ll pass it on.
You know who is going to make a big play for Waverly sometime in the next few weeks? Anthony Ruelas. The true joy of high school sports.
A Thank You To a Friend
There are few better men that have helped me learn to love writing and sharing stories than Grand Island Independent sports editor Bob Hamar. Unfortunately, now, he’s the former sports editor in a world so cruel it makes no sense.
Bob was asked to not be the sports editor anymore last week in the most American way possible. Via conference call. Heaven forbid the stockholders at Lee Enterprises give Bob the courtesy of an in-person meeting for a 30-year veteran of the Nebraska prep scene, Husker football and great coverage of Fonner Park horse racing.
Bob is a simple guy. He told the story, he listened to you and he didn’t have big, wild opinions that more than likely could have got him a job at a bigger rag and most definitely a little more money. But, that wasn’t Bob.
Bob was as happy at Memorial Stadium as he was covering a sub-district volleyball game or state tournament hoops game. And, now he can’t do that anymore because, wait for it, we don’t “support local news” say the big folks at Lee.
I see it a little different. See, it seems that since the smart folks at Lee Enterprises now are more worried about the bottom line than local news. And, it’s not just been the fate of Bob, but so many others who deserved better.
I’ll miss Bob sending me a Facebook message every Sunday about where the best game was for me to cover on Friday. But, hey, the Cubs are gonna win the World Series soon, and all will be a little better anyway. Bob will bounce right back on his feet and some great company will be glad they employed him.
As for local news and who should be supporting it? I guess time will tell on that.