The first official practice of the 2021 fall sports season is underway.
For the third year in a row, Papillion-La Vista held a midnight practice on the opening day of practice.
The Monarchs finished last year 2-7, but expectations are high for the 2021 season.
Here are notes and observations from Papillion-La Vista’s practice.
The depth at skill positions, particularly receiver, is noticeable. The Monarchs have more than a handful of speedy and quick pass catchers. Senior Tyson Money can catch and run at a high level. His miss ability in the open field is truly a strength for the offense. Look for the Monarchs to find creative ways to get Money the ball in space.
Senior tight end/wide receiver Luke Lindenmeyer led the team in receptions last season with 35. A big-bodied (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) sure-handed pass catcher, Lindenmeyer is a mismatch problem, particularly in the red zone. Senior Lane McMillian has good size for an outside receiver at 6-3. He should be in line to have a breakout season and significantly improve on his 4 catches for 30 yards from last season. The fourth and fifth receivers are good as well, with seniors Caleb Walker and Tommy Livermore providing significant depth at the position.
Running back should also be a strength. Sophomore Payton Prestito didn’t get a carry on the varsity level last season, but is a sure handed and speedy back with good vision that looks to be the first-team running back this season. Senior Derrick Buggi will get some carries and will likely be key in short-yardage situations. Buggi will be important for the back end of the defense at safety as well. Another young back, Jordan Barrientos, will be a name to watch as the season progresses.
There is nothing more known about the 2021 Monarchs than senior defensive end Will Hubert. He had a team- and state-leading 19 sacks from his defensive end position last season. Second on the team in total tackles 84 (42 for loss), he will undoubtedly be the team’s leader in the front seven this season.
The anchors of the offensive line are truly known. Senior right tackle Alec Blevins, junior center Jace Wheeler and senior right tackle Spencer Smith are good enough to play for just about any team in Class A. The two guard positions are a little more unknown. For the Monarchs’ run game to be effective, a combination of Hubert, Carson Vejvoda and others will need to learn quickly and be effective up the middle.
The quarterback position was a major question last season. This year it is known who it will be, but questions still remain. Nick Chanez, a senior Bellevue West transfer, looks to be one of the team’s leaders and the top signal caller. Chanez has 18 career passing attempts at the varsity level, which is a bit of a concern. He does have the ability to throw and can be accurate if it’s on time. The plethora of receivers the Monarchs have could certainly make him shine. Sophomore quarterback Tavien Pirtle could also be a change of pace in the QB run game.
Not many times do you see a freshman at corner back at the Class A level. Will the moment be too early for Keynan Cotton is a question. He looks to be the starting left corner, or at least it looked that way on Monday morning. Cotton, yes that bloodline of former Monarch track stars, could be a special player. He will be thrown into the fire early but seems to have the mentality and athleticism to handle it. He certainly has the speed.