Leading up to the Nebraska high school football season, NEPrepZone.com will be looking at the top teams in each class, based on last year’s rankings. This week, Eight Man-2 will be in the spotlight with a new post each day. Let us know in the comments how you think each team will finish, as well as players you’ll be watching.
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No. 4 GILTNER
COACH: Jeff Ashby, 6th season
LAST SEASON: Lost in the third round of the playoffs to Howells, finishing 10-1
RETURNING STARTERS: Jake Findley, senior, QB; Kyle Hawthorne, senior, WR; Ryan Kleier, junior, TE; Dustin Hastings, senior, WR; Garrett Poppen, junior, RB/LB; Dylan Hinrichs, senior, DB
KEY DEPARTURE: Drew Ott. The Iowa commit led the Hornets in receiving last season at tight end and was a key on defense at linebacker. He was a Parade All-American with 52 receptions for 960 yards and 18 touchdowns to accompany 122 tackles (46 solo) last season.
KEY RETURNING PLAYER: Findley. Passing for more than 2,000 yards in 2011, the senior’s abilities are key for the pass-heavy offense to thrive.
KEY NEWCOMER: Dillon Gartner, an offensive and defensive lineman, transferred from Gothenburg.
POSITION CHANGES: Kleier moves from offensive line to tight end to replace Ott’s offensive prowess.
ON OFFENSE: With Kleier’s move to tight end and Poppen moving from center to running back, the offensive line is a question mark for the Hornets, who will have three new starters up front. Can they protect their returning quarterback?
ON DEFENSE: Defensive line is the position group to watch. Poppen is the only returning starter, and it’s possible he could start the season at linebacker. All three defensive linemen could need replacing in Giltner’s 3-2 defense.
GAME TO WATCH: Sept. 14 vs. Kenesaw
DISTRICT OPPONENTS: Cedar Valley, Spalding/Spalding Academy, Fullerton, Pleasanton, Grand Island Heartland Lutheran
COACH’S QUOTE: “Our goal is always to win our district and get a shot at the state title. We have a lot of confidence. We have lots of skill guys coming back that are pretty good. Our key is the offensive and defensive line. They got to get that done for us.”
Aug. 31, @ Bruning-Davenport/Schickley
Sept. 7, Hampton
Sept. 14, Kenesaw
Sept. 21, @ Grand Island Heartland Lutheran
Sept. 28, Fullerton
Oct. 5, @ Pleasanton
Oct. 12, @ Spalding/Spalding Academy
Oct. 19, Cedar Valley
– Connor Schuessler
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For more prep football previews, go to Omaha.com/preppreviews