Friday Frenzy: State Semifinal Preview


14 TOWNS, 14 GAMES — State semifinal Friday kicks off in less than 48 hours and for the first time in a long time, we’ll have 14 games played over seven classes on the same day with games kicking off beginning at 2:00 pm central time. It should be a load of fun.

Let’s run them down, class by class.

RUNAWAY: Omaha Westside’s Dominic Rezac runs away from Kearney defenders early in the season. Both teams play in the semifinals on Friday night. (nebpreps photo / Ben Mohorn)

Class A

Kearney (5-4) at Elkhorn South (9-1) | 6:00 at Elkhorn Stadium: Kearney shocked Class A last Friday by going toe-to-toe with defending champion Bellevue West and then pulling the shocker in overtime, scoring when Alex Schall ran in on a two-point reverse play for a 41-40 win over the T-Birds.  Kearney quarterback Preston Pearson had a hand in all six of the Bearcat scores (two rushing, four passing).

As for the Storm? They got defensive last week in a 28-7 win over Lincoln Southeast at Seacrest Field, holding the Knights to just 33 yards of offense in the second half. This one could be epic, with Elkhorn South pulling out a 28-21 overtime win over Kearney in their final regular season win. EDGE: Storm, just barely.

Millard South (8-1) at Omaha Westside (10-0) | 7:00 pm at Phelps Field: If they weren’t already, Omaha Westside became the odds on favorite to win Class A after last Friday’s results. The Warriors advanced out of a high-scoring 49-29 game with Lincoln East to claim a semifinal date with Millard South.  It was only the second time the Warriors had a game within 20 points this season. Cole Payton is near 1,400 yards passing and junior back Dominic Rezac is closing in on 1,200 yards rushing for the Warriors.

What must Westside do to win? Contain Air Force commit TJ Urban. You need just ask Creighton Prep, who the Patriots beat in the semifinals 34-20 behind 244 yards from Urban on 26 attempts. The two have not faced each other, South’s loss came to Bellevue West. EDGE: Westside.

SEEING RED: Elkhorn quarterback Grant Gutschow fires a ball from his own end zone in the Antlers 13-7 win over Waverly. (nebpreps photo / Ben Mohorn)

Class B

Plattsmouth (8-2) at Aurora (8-3) | 7:00 pm: I mean, raise your hand if you had this one pegged when the Class B bracket came out. Eighth-seeded Plattsmouth, which lost two of three heading into the playoffs, and the Huskies, who started the season 0-2. Seems about right for a topsy-turvy Class B season. The Blue Devils get to keep alive the memory of a friend and for Aurora, that dynamic backfield of Ethan Shaw and Mack Owens seems to be improving every time out. EDGE: The Aurora Tradition

Elkhorn (9-2) at Hastings (9-1) | 7:00 pm at Hastings College: A clash of styles, no doubt with the old-school, ball control of Elkhorn. What’s that? They have scored 94 points in two playoff games. Okay. And, the high-flying, spread-you-out scheme of Charlie Shoemaker’s Tigers. They have a measly 92 points in their two wins, the last an edge-of-your-seat, 45-42 thriller over Northwest. The Tigers are in the semifinals for the first time since 2000 and Elkhorn coach Mark Wortman has done this a few times. EDGE: The Antlers, but not by much

SENIOR SIGNAL CALLER: St. Paul quarterback Brendan Knapp tries to elude a Kearney Catholic defender in the Cats 33-7 win. (nebpreps / Tony Chapman)

Class C-1

Kearney Catholic (9-1) at Adams Central (9-2) | 7:00 pm: A pair of rematches in Class C-1 and the Patriots and the Stars will sure wet your whistle. Sure, we know about KC’s Husker quarterback pledge Heinrich Haarberg, but when the Stars beat Adams Central 33-22 in early October it was because they were able to run it successfully. They’ll need more of the same on Friday. For the Patriots? Keep playing defense. AC has given up just 19 points in two playoffs games against pre-season No. 1 Wayne, a 30-13 win. And was even better last week in a 35-6 win over top-seed and then unbeaten Ashland-Greenwood. EDGE: Home team here? 

St. Paul (10-1) at Pierce (11-0) | 7:00 pm: A new site, but back where it all started for these two in Pierce’s 55-38 opening night win. St. Paul is hungry and has learned. This one could be the game of semifinal night. Pierce has had some recent close calls: 19-9 win Wayne last game of the regular season, tied with West Point-Beemer heading to fourth quarter in round one, back-and-forth punches with Wahoo. St. Paul? Locked in. Wins over the other two semifinalists should provide a boost in confidence, too.  EDGE: Fate. We think the ‘Cats could be ready.

BREAD AND BUTTER: Behind one of the best lines in small-class football, Oakland-Craig’s Caden Nelson takes a handoff from quarterback Grady Gatewood in the top-ranked Knights 28-12 win over No. 3 Aquinas (nebpreps photo / Ben Mohorn)

Class C-2

Yutan (10-1) at Archbishop Bergan (11-0) | 7:00 pm at Heedum Field: If you had to name a surprise to the Class C-2 season, it’s the Knights who have beat everything in their way and now have their second regular season rematch of the playoffs on Friday. Bergan quarterback Koa McIntyre may be the most dynamic playmaker in the class as he closes in on 3,000 yards of total offense on the season. This one went 41-13 to Bergan in week one. How far has Yutan come? We are about to see, but their 54-19 win over Wilber-Clatonia could be one of the most impressive playoffs wins so far. EDGE: Bergan, but tighter this time 

Oakland-Craig (10-1) at Ord (10-0) | 6:00 pm: Woof. This one jumps right to the top of the 11-man games with St. Paul at Pierce when it comes to intrigue. O-C is the defending champ, but Ord is down from C-1, where they were a 2018 finalist. So, both teams bring the big game experience. You almost just want to sit back and let it play out. Both teams are championship worthy with names you’ll remember: Meyer, Smith, Stevens, Nelson, Brands, Thiele just to name a few.  EDGE: Can’t pick the game when you’ll be in the booth. 

SUPER SEIM: Cross County’s Carter Seim ran over, through and around Blue Hill in a season opening 70-12 win. (nebpreps photo / Tony Chapman)

Class D-1

Dundy County-Stratton (10-0) at Tri-County (10-0) | 6:00 pm (central) at DeWitt: Things played out perfectly in Class D-1, where four unbeaten teams are squaring off in the semifinals. All four teams can grind it out, too. In this game, you’ll see four 1,000 yards rushers — Cole Seims and Jack Holsing for Tri-County and Serbando Diaz and Quade Myers for DCS. Myers and Diaz are both 5,000 yard career rushers. The difference, maybe? Myers nearly 900 passing yards on the season. EDGE: DCS to go a round farther than last year

Burwell (11-0) at Cross County (11-0) | 6:00 pm: If you thought there was a lot of running up top, this Cross County, Burwell game has even more adjectives. Cross County is in elite national company in a season where they are averaging over 440 rushing yards per game. Both Carter Seim and Isaac Noyd are over 2,000 (not 1,000) yards this season. On the other side, Burwell — who needed a late comeback for a 49-48 win over Neligh-Oakdale — has Caleb Busch over 2,000 yards. This is believed to be a first-ever game of it’s kind in state history. EDGE: Oh man. Don’t make be do this. Cross County in a slobber knocker.

LUCKY 7: Central Valley running back Jackson McIntyre runs for yards while trying to elude the tackle of Humphrey St. Francis’ Haustyn Forney (1). The Cougars upended the Flyers 29-12 and held St. Francis to just 71 yards rushing on 38 carries. (nebpreps photo / Tony Chapman)

Class D-2

Falls City Sacred Heart (9-1) at Sandhills/Thedford (11-0) | 5:00 pm at Dunning: In the first year of 8-man re-seeding, we get a semifinal that could have never happened in the old format. The southeast Nebraska tradition of Falls City Sacred Heart travels to the edge of the Sand Hills in Dunning. Two excellent coaches: Josh Deines and Doug Goltz. Two players that will pop off your program: S/T’s Dane Pokorny and FCSH’s Del Casteel. Lots of green in this one. It’s Goltz’s 97th playoff game since 1987, he’s only lost 24 of them.  EDGE: Sacred Heart, but Sandhills/Thedford winning isn’t really an upset.

Central Valley (11-0) at BDS (11-0) | 5:30 pm at Bruning: These two might think they are looking at each other in the mirror with their spread power run games that occasionally try to trick you. BDS has given FCSH their only loss and also beat quarterfinalist Kenesaw twice. The Cougars counter with a tough minded defense that has speed on the edge that could keep the Eagles penned in. BDS has scored under 50 just once in 11 outings. EDGE: BDS

THOROUGHBREDS: Chase Wilkinson (15) and his McCool Junction teammates are rolling through six-man after a 2019 finals appearance. (nebpreps photo / Ben Mohorn)

Class D-6

Sterling (10-0) at Arthur County (8-2) | 1:30 pm (mountain) at Arthur: The six-man playoffs hit the Mountain Time Zone full speed on Friday with unbeaten Sterling traveling to Arthur County; where they know their six-man football. The Jets have been dominant all season and they still haven’t given up 20 points. Do you know how crazy that is in six-man? It’s absolutely nuts. EDGE: J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets. (Chris Berman voice)

McCool Junction (10-0) at Cody-Kilgore (6-2) | 1:00 pm (mountain) at Cody: As dominant as the Sterling defense has been, the Mustangs have been as wacky on offense. They are averaging 81 points per game in the playoffs. Sheesh. They have been held under 60 just twice and are averaging 10.57 yards per play. LOL. A rematch of last year’s semifinal that McCool won 40-28 (also in Cody). If C-K can get another defensive effort like that, they have a chance. EDGE: McCool Junction

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