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 A 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. Also, check out the football preview section in the Sunday World-Herald.
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No. 4 LINCOLN SOUTHEAST
COACH: Ryan Gottula, second season
LAST SEASON: The Knights won the state championship by defeating Omaha Burke 21-9, finishing the season 12-1.
RETURNING STARTERS: Najee Jackson, senior, QB/DB; Luke Gifford, junior, DB; Devin Washington, senior, RB/LB; Landon Kubicek, senior, OT/DT; D.J. Foster, junior, OG/DT; Tanner Webster, senior, OG/DT; Desmond Robinson, senior, WR/DB; Devonte Madlock, senior, WR/DB
KEY DEPARTURE: Trey Foster, TE/DL. The Nebraska walk-on got first-team all-state honors last season. He had 105 yards receiving but did most of his damage on the defensive side of the ball, making 59 tackles and accumulating 3 1/2 sacks.
PLAYER TO WATCH: D.J. Foster. Only a junior, the 290-pound lineman will continue to garner much recruiting interest in 2012. Coach Gottula expects to start Foster on both sides of the ball this season. It will be important that his star is in good condition and continues to improve on both sides of the ball.
KEY NEWCOMERS: Darian Trout-Brown and Brendan Gillming. A Lincoln North Star transfer, Trout-Brown could help right away, especially on defense, where the Knights lost most of its production. Gillming had 21 tackles last season as a role player and should help defensively, as well.
KEY POSITION CHANGE: Though nothing is concrete, it is possible that fans can see many new faces playing different positions on defense. The Knights return only one true starter in Gifford at safety.
ON OFFENSE: The Knights return a bevy of playmakers on offense. Senior quarterback Najee Jackson passed for over 1,500 yards last season with 17 touchdowns. Washington may be the best running back in all classes after running for 1,907 yards last season. At receiver, Robinson returns after eight touchdowns and Madlock is back from injury. Even with all those weapons, Lincoln Southeast may have its best players on the line as Foster and Kubicek have both seen recruiting interest from Nebraska.
ON DEFENSE: Gifford is one of the most dynamic athletes on the team and just so happens to be the only returning starter on defense. The junior had 35 tackles and two picks as a sophomore and brings his 4.6 40-meter speed back this season. Southeast is traditionally strong defensively and the coach expects his team to reload in 2012.
GAME TO WATCH: The defending champs take on Lincoln Southwest — and Husker commits Josh Banderas and Christian Lacouture — on Sept. 20.
DISTRICT OPPONENTS: Lincoln East, Lincoln Northeast, Lincoln Pius X, Lincoln Southwest, Norfolk
COACH’S QUOTE: “We have high expectations as always, but we will continue to focus on being 1-0 each week.”
Aug. 24, Millard West
Aug. 31, at Lincoln High
Sept. 7, Millard South
Sept. 14, Omaha Creighton Prep
Sept. 20, at Lincoln Southwest
Sept 27, at Norfolk
Oct. 5, Lincoln East
Oct. 12, Lincoln Northeast
Oct. 19, at Lincoln Pius X
— Grant Egger
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For more prep football previews, go to NEPrepZone.com/preppreviews