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. Class C-2 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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NO. 5 DONIPHAN-TRUMBULL
Coach: Brent Breckner, sixth season
Returning starters: RB/DB Jordan Slough (Sr.), QB/DB Riley Wiltfong (Sr.), OL/DL Eric Toben (Sr.), TE/LB Creighton Buhr (Sr.), RB/LB Lorenzo Williams (Sr.), OL/DL Grady Koch (Sr.), OL/DL Adam Gomez (Sr.), OL/DL Jonah Blase (Sr.)
Players to watch: Doniphan-Trumbull has two players to keep an eye on in Wiltfong and Slough. Wiltfong completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,394 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2012 while Slough rushed for 2,272 yards and scored 33 times. Each picked up all-state honors on their way to leading the Cardinals to a 9-3 record and an appearance in the state semifinals.
Coach’s quote: “We have the potential to be explosive in the up tempo spread offense with the return of Wiltfong and Slough. The team will need to fill in for some key players lost to graduation on the offensive line, in the secondary and at wide receiver.”
NO. 6 NORTH PLATTE ST. PATRICK’S
Coach: Kevin Dodson, 15th season
Returning starters: DE Alex Harms (Sr.), TE/DE Mark Mayfield (Sr.), RB/LB Collin Piper (Sr.), C Drew McClellen (Jr.), LB Evan Klinkefus (Jr.), LB Chase Kimberling (Sr.)
Player to watch: Much of the team’s success will depend on Piper. He will anchor an offense that averaged nearly 40 points per game and a defense which held opponents to just more than seven points per game in 2012. The Irish return four starters on offense and five on defense, but 13 new starters will have to step up if the Irish want to contend in 2013.
Coach’s quote: “We return a nice group of seniors and skilled players. We will need to develop depth and linemen. Senior leadership will be key to our success.”
NO. 7 CROFTON
Coach: Tony Hoffman, 15th season
Returning starters: QB/FS Alex Jansen (Sr.), FB/LB Corbin Wavrunek (Jr.), C/RB Austin Woockman (Sr.), RB/FS Evan Woockman (Sr.), OL/DL/K Brock Mueller (Jr.), DE/OG Jake Guenther (Sr.), TE/LB Eric Kleinschmit (Sr.), TE/DE Tyler Koch (Jr.)
Players to watch: Jansen is a three-year starter at quarterback and is a well-known quantity in the Crofton offense. Another interesting player is Mueller. At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Mueller not only has a starting spot on the Crofton offensive and defensive line, but the junior also serves as the Warriors kicker.
NO. 8 WEST HOLT
Coach: Steve Neptune, fourth season
Returning starters: RB Josh Coyle (Sr.), WR Connor Osborne (Sr.), QB Ryan Linders (Jr.), FB Austin Braun (Sr.), LB Kolby Cone (Jr.), LB Noble Wentworth (Sr.), LB Jacob Tasler (Jr.), CB Jeff Judge (Jr.).
Player to watch: Although the linebacking trio of Cone, Wentworth and Tasler combined for 175 tackles in 2012, the defense still allowed 20 points per game. In West Holt’s three losses it was more than 32 points per game. The defense gets back eight starters this season, and Cone, Wentworth and Tasler will likely set the tone and provide leadership for the rest of the group.
Coach’s quote: “Our strength is our eight returning starters on defense. We are finally getting numbers to hopefully build on some depth. A weakness is our offensive line. We lost four starters so we’ll have to work hard over the summer to develop the offensive line.”
NO. 9 HASTINGS ST. CECILIA
Coach: Carl Tesmer, 23rd year
Returning starters: OL/DT Lance Schmidt (Sr.), RB/LB Avery Driscoll (Sr.), OL/DE Tom O’Keefe (Sr.), FB/DL Trevor Ernst (Sr.), OL/DT Alex Sheehy (Sr.), TE/DE Cannon Howell (Sr.), RB/LB Tyler Willnerd (Sr.), QB/LB Gus Clark (Jr.), OL/DL Cody Zeckser (Jr.)
Player to watch: Whoever seizes the opportunity at quarterback. Currently the Bluehawks have a three-way tie for the position. Last year’s starter as well as two running backs graduated, leaving St. Cecilia with a fairly depleted backfield. In order to contend, the Bluehawks need someone to step up as the clear favorite at quarterback and avoid a juggling situation.
Coach’s quote: “We will be better, but our schedule is just as tough as last year. There is experience back in the offensive line, but our backfield (from last year) is almost all gone. We should be strong at linebacker and defensive ends, but will need to develop at defensive tackle.”
NO. 10 HERSHEY
Coach: Ryan Smith, 16th year
Returning starters: OL/DL Adam Steffes (Sr.), OL Ariel Quiroga (Sr.), OL/LB Justin Weir (Sr.), TE/LB Landan Maassen (Sr.), WR/LB Terence Whiting (Sr.), RB/LB Josh Margritz (Jr.), RB/DB Gaige Marshall (Jr.), DB Chayton Crow (Jr.)
Player to watch: Steffes. The senior is a three-year starter on offense and anchors the line on both sides of the ball. The Panthers feel like the have three capable starters at quarterback, but having Steffes in front of whomever wins the QB job will make the transition easier.
Coach’s quote: “Our defense should be a strength. We return four starting linebackers in Maassen, Weir, Whiting and Margritz. Our line should be strong with a number of very good players coming back, led by Steffes as well as sophomore Lane Richardson, who saw some varsity minutes last year as a freshman. We’ll have a nice class of juniors who will add depth and competition to these positions.”
– Nate Tenopir