Published Friday, August 16, 2013 AT 7:00 AM / Updated at 2:12 PM
Prep Football Countdown: Class A No. 2 Omaha North
Nebraska Prep Zone Omaha World-Herald

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 A 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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CLASS A NO. 2 OMAHA NORTH
District A-2

Coach: Larry Martin, 14th season

Last Season: Lost 17-14 to Millard North in state championship game.

RETURNING STARTERS

RB Calvin Strong (Jr.), OL Michael Decker (Jr.), FB Tristan Frezell (Sr.), OL Adam Steinspring (Sr.), DL Aaron Wilson (Sr.), LB Collin Weingaertner (Sr.), LB Elijah Hawkins (Sr.), LB Jason Martin (Jr.), DB/RB JaVaughn Perkins (Sr.), WR Marquise Lewis (Jr.).
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 A 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.

KEY DEPARTURE

Zach Martin, QB: When you’ve got a game-breaker at running back like Strong, most defenses can expect what’s coming. But Martin helped the Vikings stay fairly two-dimensional. In 2012, Martin completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,708 yards, 22 touchdowns and four interceptions. Omaha North averaged more than 140 passing yards per game. That responsibility falls to senior Dalton Willmore or junior Payton Nelson this year, as the two will battle for the starting QB spot.

KEY RETURNING PLAYER

Strong: After a season in which Strong ran for more than 1,900 yards and scored 22 touchdowns, the junior has attracted interest from Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Southern Cal, among many others. Simply put, Strong is one of the most dynamic players in the state and as he goes, so goes the Vikings. Thanks to Strong’s help, Omaha North played in its first-ever state football championship last season.

KEY NEWCOMERS

C Quentin King (Sr.), OL Neal Sellers (Jr.), FB/OLB Cole Bixler (Jr.), OL Jaylan Newsome (Jr.), DE Jaylan Onefeather (Jr.), TE/OLB Tyler Hamilton (Sr.), QB Dalton Willmore (Sr.), QB Payton Nelson (Jr.), WR/CB Davion Reed (Jr.), OL/DT Jordan Johnson (Jr.), FB Rodney Huffman (Sr.), OL Justin Edwards (Jr.).

ON OFFENSE

Omaha North has just two returning starters up front, but the Vikings have a tight end and a center who also saw serious playing time last season. In North’s I-formation, Martin puts a lot of responsibility on his fullbacks and he’s pleased with the Vikings’ options at that position. Between expected starter Tristan Frezell and teammates Cole Bixler and Rodney Huffman, Strong can have a fresh blocker in for him on almost every down. What will be interesting to watch early on is how the Vikings develop their play-action and quick passing game. Martin admits that Strong might have started to wear down some at the end of last season. Any help he can get through the air will be invaluable to the team’s success.

ON DEFENSE

“I think we’ve got a good nucleus of our defense back,” Martin said. “Our talented free safety JaVaughn Perkins is back as well as both inside linebackers, Jason Martin and Elijah Hawkins. And we’ve also got our outside linebacker Collin Weingaertner.
“We’re gonna be rebuilding on defense some. They’ve got to make that transition. Our JV team went 8-1 last year so a lot of it is gonna depend on how well they make that jump this year.”

A couple of players Martin doesn’t have to worry about are Martin, the Vikings’ leading tackler last season, Decker, who’s likely to start on both lines. The Vikings only allowed 16 points per game last season, including the first two games of the season against Omaha Benson and Omaha South.

GAME TO WATCH

Millard North, Oct. 25: Fans will have to wait until the very last game of the regular season to see the rematch of the state championship game.

DISTRICT OPPONENTS

Omaha Burke, Papillion-La Vista, Bellevue West, Millard North.

COACH’S QUOTE

“I think the biggest difference I’ve shared with the players and the coaches is they understand what type of work effort it takes as a student athlete, both in the classroom and on the field, what it takes on a daily basis to be truly great. Our kids are understanding it takes a tremendous amount of work to be great. I definitely think our kids have seen what it takes to do that and I think there’s a level of confidence that they really understand how hard you have to work on a daily basis.”

SCHEDULE

Aug. 30, Omaha Benson
Sept. 6, at Omaha South
Sept. 13, at Omaha Bryan
Sept. 19, Lincoln Southwest
Sept. 27, at Papillion-La Vista South
Oct. 4, at Omaha Burke
Oct. 11, Papillion-La Vista
Oct. 18, at Bellevue West
Oct. 25, Millard North

– Nate Tenopir

To see previous entries from this series, go to NEPrepZone.com/prep-previews.

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