I tell you what, the 2016 football season went by way too fast. We saw some incredible performances throughout the year, starting with Neligh-Oakdale’s surprisingly dominant win over Creighton to open the season and ending with Clearwater-Orchard’s attempted upset bid of Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing, a game that was tied at 28 going into the final quarter.
Now, the games are about to get a bit more exciting. With the announcement of the 2016 playoff field Saturday morning, we learned that there are eight Holt, Antelope, Knox or Boone County teams with a shot at the title yet. Some notable teams were left out, such as Boone Central/Newman Grove. It really is too bad that Neligh-Oakdale wasn’t able to play either, because to be honest a potential final of the Warriors versus CWCE would likely have gone down as the game of the year.
Anyway, lets focus on the eight who are in, starting with C1.
Undefeated O’Neill takes on Columbus Lakeview in a rematch of an early season game that the Eagles won 36-14, giving up their first points of the season. Should the Eagles win - I predict they do - they dive into a section of the bracket that includes Norfolk Catholic, Aquinas Catholic, Boys Town and Arlington. That is a tough draw. If they make it through that to the championship game, it’ll be on the strength of their solid defense and the arm of talented junior quarterback Alex Thramer.
In C2, Crofton represents Knox County as the seventh seed when they take on Central City. Crofton is one of the better running teams in the area, led by Tanner Crosley, but they will have to contend with a strong Central City front that includes potential division one player Jordan Paup. It won’t be easy, but they should move on to the next round, likely to take on a tough Valentine squad.
The D1 field is littered with local teams, led by the second seed, Creighton. The Bulldogs draw a matchup with Diller-Odell, a game they should win handily, much like they have all year. Likely their biggest obstacle to making the state championship would be a semifinal showdown with top-seeded Guardian Angel CC, Clearwater-Orchard’s first round opponent. The Cyclones, despite the string of losses, have been playing some of their best ball the past few weeks against highly ranked playoff teams. An upset isn’t out of the picture, but it will take a perfect game from Chris Kester and crew.
CWCE draws a first round match with 3-5 Sutherland. I have heard rumors that the Renegades may be without their do-everything stud Daniel Libolt, but the Croxens are a dominant duo that should dominate the game for the Renegades. Their potential second round opponent, West Holt, has one of the longest journeys of anyone in the playoffs when they head to Dundy County-Stratton in a battle of 5-3 teams. The drive will play a factor. If Mason Hale and company can continue to play as well as they have the past couple of weeks, they should be making a long trip home with a win.
Finally, in D2, Bloomfield has been on an absolute tear since a week one loss to Wynot. They take on Exeter-Milligan. Quentin Moles has played as well as anyone in the state this year, and I don’t expect the Timberwolves to be able to contain him any better than anyone else. If all goes well, there is a small chance they could get revenge on Wynot for a shot at the finals. St. Mary’s is on the other side of the bracket, taking on Eustis-Farnam. Both teams know how to get the ground game going. For St. Mary’s that starts with quarterback Josh Cuddy, who has a tendency to take over a game when the Cardinals need him the most. Expect that to happen against the Knights. They should win and make a deep run in the bracket.
For our volleyball Game of the Week, we'll be traveling to Bloomfield for the Knox County Tournament. Niobrara/Verdigre, Crofton, Creighton, Bloomfield, Santee and Wausa will all take the court looking to prove themselves as the top team in Knox County.
Why is this the Game of the Week? With the season winding down, we already have a very good idea of what each team is capable of. Creighton and Crofton come in as two of the top teams in the area, while Niobrara/Verdigre, Santee, Bloomfield and Wausa all have struggled in recent weeks. However, this tournament gives teams a chance for bragging rights against their neighbors, so expect an upset or two.
Who is going to be there? Wausa (3-14), Bloomfield (1-16), Crofton (15-4), Creighton (11-4), Niobrara/Verdigre (4-16), Santee (1-19)
Players to watch: Bloomfield - Leah Poppe, Senior, Leads team in kills, aces, blocks and digs
Crofton - Kelsey Sanger, Senior, 194 kills, 52 aces, 41 blocks, 285 digs
Creighton - Kirsten Adams, 92 kills, 73 blocks
Game Day Info: Bloomfield, NE Monday and Tuesday October 17 and 18.
Schedule to be posted.
For our football Game of the Week, we will be in Atkinson as West Holt hosts Clearwater-Orchard. West Holt has all but locked up a playoff spot and are now playing for a better seed. The Cyclones, however, are in full playoff mode already, as they likely have to win at least one of their remaining games to make the postseason.
Why is this the Game of the Week? Both teams have a lot of motivation as we close in on the end of the regular season. Three weeks ago, West Holt looked to be one of the top teams in the state, with their only loss coming to Creighton. Since then, they have dropped two straight, first to Burwell then to Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing. They look to stop the two game losing skid and move up the playoff seeding with a win over the Cyclones, who come in with a two-game losing skid of their own. They are right on the edge of the playoff picture and can secure a spot with a win or two to finish the year. They are young and talented, if they can put it together, an upset is waiting.
Who is going to be there? West Holt (3-3), Clearwater-Orchard (2-4)
Players to watch: West Holt - Bryce Kerkman, Junior, Dynamic athlete with a strong arm and great at making plays with his feet.
Clearwater-Orchard - Creston Bertschinger, Junior, 812 all-purpose yard, 7 total touchdowns, 47 total tackles
Game Day Info: Atkinson, NE. Friday, October 14 at 7 p.m.
I hate to say it, but the high school football season is beginning to wind down. We have just two weeks left in the season for teams to make their final bids for district championships and playoff seedings.
Around this time of year, teams tend to find that extra bit of motivation to pull out a win or two that they aren’t expected to win. With that being said, lets look over a couple of teams that are on the edge of playoff contention and take a wild guess at how things will finish out for them.
Lets start with Clearwater-Orchard. After a loss to Burwell last week, the Cyclones are now 2-4. They are a team that is full of youth, so they are as unpredictable as any team in the area.
However, their final two games are no gimmies, taking on West Holt and Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing to wrap up the year. That is a brutal way to end the year. If they play well, they can pull an upset, but it’ll be tough. Prediction: Finish 2-6, sneak into playoffs as a lower seed.
Next, we look at the Cardinals of Boone Central/Newman Grove. At 4-3, they have dealt with a tough schedule. However, they still control their own destiny. They take on district foe Columbus Scotus this week in what will likely determine the district runner-up. After that, they have a date with 1-6 Grand Island Central Catholic to end the year.
Scotus will not be a cakewalk, but the Cardinals have hit a hot streak lately. Plus, they have Dylan Gentrup, and Dylan Gentrup is the real deal. Prediction: Finish 6-3, make playoffs as a wildcard.
From there, we take a look at the Stuart Broncos. The Broncos started off with what seemed like two strong wins in 2016. However, from there, they faltered to four straight losses, including a loss to North Central. a squad that had just one win entering the game.
The Broncos lost a lot of talent from last year, and the inexperience has shown at times. They always seem to reload, but a showdown with Bloomfield to finish the season could prevent them from seeing the post-season this year. Prediction: Finish 3-5, just barely miss the playoffs.
Our final team we look at is Niobrara/Verdigre. At 1-5, it may seem a longshot to be thinking playoffs for the Cougars, but with the number of teams ineligible to participate in the playoffs this year in D1, they still have as good a shot as anyone.
They earned their one win over Laurel-Concord-Coleridge on the legs of dynamic athlete Kevin Rudloff, who went for 286 yards on the ground that night. They finish with games against Hartington-Newcastle and Wakefield, a couple of 4-2 teams that have already locked in a playoff bid.
As things stand right now, the Cougars are as close to the edge as anyone in the playoff picture and an upset or two is the only way they will make their way in. If they can get their run game going like they did against LCC, it’s certainly possible. Prediction: Finish 1-7, miss playoffs.
On top of the teams that are right on the edge of playoff contention, their are many other teams that you can all but pencil in to a playoff game when they start October 27.
Undefeated squads such as O’Neill and Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing obviously have their spots, Crofton, Bloomfield, Creighton, West Holt and St. Mary’s will all likely have great seeding when the brackets are announced at the end of the season. Of course Riverside and St. Edward are locks to return to the six-man tournament as well after they wrap up two spectacular seasons.
It’s safe to say area fans will have a lot to cheer for between now and November 21 and 22, when we hopefully see an area finals team.
Game of the Week
We are in the final stretch of the 2016 fall sports season. Some teams will even be wrapping up the regular season this week. The games are about to start getting a lot more meaningful, as teams are working for playoff positioning and district titles.
On the football side, I can be found out in Atkinson as West Holt hosts Clearwater-Orchard. The Cyclones are looking to rebound after a two-game losing streak and make their way back into the playoff picture. West Holt, coming off a tough loss to Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing, will also be looking to return to the win column and boost their playoff seeding.
For the volleyball Game of the Week, look for me at the Knox County Tournament as we look to find out who the top team in Knox County is for 2016.
For our football Game of the Week, we will be in Spalding as Riverside hosts St. Edward in a rematch of the 2015 six-man state championship. Both teams have yet to face much of a challenge in 2016 and this promises to be a classic showdown.
Why is this the Game of the Week? Not only is this a rematch of last year's championship, it's likely to be a preview of this season's state championship game as well. Neither team has faced much of a challenge so far this year, with the smallest margin of victory for St. Edward being a 28-point victory. Riverside hasn't had a game closer than 53 points. Both teams are averaging greater than 50 points per game, so this is likely to be a high-scoring affair, assuming the Beavers can find a way to get past Riverside's defense that hasn't allowed more than 13 points in a single game.
Who is going to be there? Riverside (5-0), St. Edward (5-0)
Players to watch: Riverside - Noah Valasek, Senior, 541 yards passing, 14 passing touchdowns, 494 yards rushing, 14 rushing touchdowns
St. Edward - Brayden Olson, Senior, 896 rushing yards, 18 rushing touchdowns, 1101 all-purpose yards, 21 total touchdowns
Game Day Info: Spalding, NE. Friday, October 7 at 7 p.m.
For our volleyball Game of the Week, we'll be traveling to Clearwater for the Clearwater-Orchard Double Triangular. Chambers/Wheeler Central, Wausa and Elgin/Pope John all make their way to Clearwater to join the Cyclones in a double triangular that has three potential state playoff teams. Lets break down this match up.
Why is this the Game of the Week? This will be a showdown of three potential playoff teams. EPPJ and CWC are both top five in wildcard points for their respective classes. Clearwater-Orchard is in the top half of the point standings and have had a strong second half of the season. Wausa has struggled throughout the season but they hope to make some noise against some strong teams.
Who is going to be there? Clearwater-Orchard (10-7), Elgin Public/Pope John (19-0), Chambers/Wheeler Central (12-5), Wausa (3-11)
Players to watch: Clearwater-Orchard - JoCee Johnston, Sophomore, 133 kills, 21 aces, 69 total blocks
EPPJ - Liz Selting, Senior, 200 kills, 26 total blocks
CWC - Jacie Laetsch, Senior, 216 kills, 29 aces, 33 total blocks, 147 digs
Game Day Info: Clearwater Site. Thursday, October 6 at 5 p.m.
5 p.m. - Clearwater-Orchard vs. Chambers/Wheeler Central
6 p.m. - Chambers/Wheeler Central vs. Wausa
7 p.m. - Wausa vs. Elgin Public/Pope John
8 p.m. - Elgin Public/Pope John vs. Clearwater-Orchard
I’m about to say something that I hope you don’t all hate me for. I, Logan Lawson, am a Yankees fan.
Glad I got that off my chest.
Now I have to admit, I haven’t been able to pay as much attention to baseball as I have in years past, partially because it has been a busy summer, what with moving and getting married and such. I know, trivial things compared to professional baseball, but things I had to take care of regardless.
Lets not tell my wife about that last sentence.
Anyway, back to the playoffs. As a Yankees fan, I’ve had to adopt a second team over the past few seasons due to the struggles. That team: the Kansas City Royals. Part of the decision was as a bandwagoner, part was because my wife is obsessed with them and it kind of rubbed off on me. They have been a fun team to watch, with all of those former high draft picks finally paying off for them.
Having two teams to cheer for worked out well, until this year. The Yankees finished fourth in a surprisingly tough division, the only team with a winning record in the AL East to not make the playoffs. Respectable, but still frustrating. The Royals, on the other hand, finished third in a fairly weak division, barely finishing at .500.
So now, I have to sit here, during my favorite playoff of major professional sports, with no team to root for. Do I adopt a temporary team? I’m not a fan of anyone in the AL bracket. Despite my respect for David Ortiz, I hope the Red Sox get swept by an average of ten runs. The rest, I could care less for.
On the NL side, I can probably cheer for the Cubs, as the saddest streak in sports needs to come to an end sooner or later. I also attended a Cubs game a couple years ago, and a day in Wrigleyville can make anyone a Cubs fan.
I could also probably find it in me to cheer for the Nationals, simply because Bryce Harper is the biggest thing to hit the National League since Barry Bonds was smashing bombs into McCovey Cove.
However, I don’t really know if it is worth it for me to pick a team. Maybe I should just sit back and watch everything unfold. It has certainly been an interesting season in professional baseball. It’s easy to find indvidual players to root for when there is constantly new talent coming into the league, as has been the case the past few years, except for Tim Tebow.
Maybe I will do that. Maybe I’ll just sit back and enjoy the greatest postseason in professional sports for once.
Game of the Week
I am admittedly way too excited about this week’s Games of the Week. That’s because I will be experiencing a rematch of the 2015 six-man state championship when I travel to Cedar Rapids to see Riverside take on St. Edward in a game that will likely determine the favorite for the 2016 championship.
On the volleyball side, you can find me in Clearwater for the Clearwater-Orchard Double Triangular. Wausa and Clearwater- Orchard will take their shot at knocking off unbeaten Elgin Public/Pope John, while Chambers/Wheeler Central looks to cement their spot among the top teams in Class D2.
If you have a suggestion for our next game of the week, call me at (402) 887-4000 or email me at email@example.com.
Sports Editor at Antelope County News/The Orchard News, Logan is from Kearney and has a diverse sports background, including several seasons playing semi-pro football. All columns here are the opinion of the writer only and do not represent the views of the Antelope County News or Pitzer Digital.