Leading up to the Nebraska high school football season, NEPrepZone.com will be looking at the top teams in each class, based on last season’s final rankings. Eight Man-1 takes the stage this week, with a new post each day. Let us know in the comments how you think each team will finish, as well as the players you’ll be watching.
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EIGHT MAN-1 NO. 1 ELGIN/POPE JOHN
Coach: Randy Eisenhauer, first season
Last season: Won the state championship against Exeter-Milligan 40-14
OL/LB Kyle Heithoff (Jr.)
Ross Schindler, QB: An Eight Man-1 honorary captain with Iowa commit Nathan Bazata, Schindler led the Wolfpack to consecutive titles. In last season’s championship, he ran for 141 yards rushing and two scores against Exeter-Milligan.
Blake Anderson, RB: A gutsy runner, Anderson served as Elgin/Pope John’s workhorse last season. In the title game he had 23 rushing attempts. “I don’t know if you can replace him,” Eisenhauer said.
KEY RETURNING PLAYER
Heithoff: The only returning player with first-team reps, Heithoff has a plethora of experience. The junior picked up his first career start as a freshman in the 2011 state championship game. The 185-pounder plays bigger than he is due to his strength and work ethic. “He works his tail off,” Eisenhauer said.
Return from injury: Brett Kinney, RB/LB: The senior returns after an ACL tear slowed him last season. He looks to fill the shoes of Anderson at running back along with Blake Schrage.
Elgin/Pope John ran itself to two trophies in two years and shouldn’t change much even with a new coach. Eisenhauer served as defense coordinator last season and has been a coach in the Elgin community for many years. Kinney, Schrage, sophomore Andrew Fergman –who ran for more than 100 yards as a freshman — and new quarterback Alex Pelster will all likely see multiple carries behind Heithoff and a reworked offensive line.
The Wolfpack run a 3-4 set on defense. Blitzing — though it could be dialed back this year due to inexperience — will continue to be a part of Eisenhauer’s plan. Heitoff had 165 tackles last season as one of the team’s two middle linebackers. Fergman could fill the spot next to the senior after picking up 26 tackles in a reserve role in 2012.
GAME TO WATCH
At No. 8 Creighton , Sept. 27
Bloomfield, Creighton, Neligh-Oakdale, Niobrara/Verdigre, Plainview
“I’m comfortable with this team. In the past couple years we’ve built good depth in some lopsided games.”
Aug. 30, Randolph
Sept. 13, at CWC
Sept. 20, Nebraska-Christian
Sept. 27, at Creighton
Oct. 5, Niobrara-Verdigre
Oct. 11, Bloomfield
Oct. 18, at Plainview
Oct. 24, Neligh-Oakdale
– Grant Egger