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, Class C-1 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. 2 PIERCE
COACH: Mark Brahmer, 17th season
LAST SEASON: Lost to eventual champion Norfolk Catholic in the quarterfinals 22-12, finishing the season 9-2.
RETURNING STARTERS: Aaron Hanlin, senior, OG/DE; Charles Krueger, junior, OT/DT; Matt Lukens, senior, TE/DE; Nate Meier, senior, RB/LB; Trent Spieker, senior, RB/OLB
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Meier. The Bluejays running back returns for his senior season after rushing for 876 yards last season. The 190-pound, multi-sport athlete is looking to have a big season, and Brahmer expects him to garner interest from colleges around the region.
KEY DEPARTURE: Brandon Freeman, QB, and Shelton Dvorak, LB. The Bluejays will miss a large senior class which included three-year starting quarterback Brandon Freeman. The signal-caller will play for Midland this fall. Pierce will also miss its inspirational leader in linebacker Shelton Dvorak.
KEY NEWCOMERS: With small junior and senior classes, Pierce will rely on a large sophomore class to fill in some key spots. Brahmer will need them to develop in time for the playoffs.
KEY POSITION CHANGE: Meier. With Freeman wrapping up his career as a Bluejay, Pierce may use Meier at quarterback to keep the ball in its best offensive player’s hands.
ON OFFENSE: The Bluejays running game out of the I-formation has been effective for many years and should continue to be in 2012. Meier and fullback Trent Spieker should be a very productive tandem once again, but senior Dillon Ronspies should also be a main contributor. Brahmer said that Ronspies would have been a starter on most teams last season. Hanlin, Zach Fehringer, and Eddie Francois should provide a solid backbone for a line that will see some younger players getting playing time.
ON DEFENSE: Hanlin and Meier lead a defense built on stopping the run in their 6-2 alignment. Meier is a returning starter at middle linebacker and Hanlin, who is also an accomplished wrestler, will dig in again at defensive end. Pierce is known for rotating players on defense and will need help from underclassmen to develop a proper rotation.
GAME TO WATCH: Besides the annual rivalry game against Norfolk Catholic, the Bluejays look forward to facing a Boys Town team on Sept. 7 that has spent time in Class B.
DISTRICT OPPONENTS: Norfolk Catholic, Wayne, West Point-Beemer
COACH’S QUOTE: “The biggest thing is to stay healthy. If we can do that, we have some talent.”
Aug. 24, at David City
Aug. 31, Boone Central/Newman Grove
Sept. 7, at Boys Town
Sept. 14, Logan View
Sept. 28, Columbus Scotus
Oct. 5, at Wayne
Oct. 12, at Norfolk Catholic
Oct. 18, West Point-Beemer
— Grant Egger
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For more prep football previews, go to NEPrepZone.com/preppreviews