Lincoln Southeast’s offensive identity this season is running Nick Halleen behind a huge line and wearing down the opposition.
Wide receiver Isaac Appleget is all on board with that, even if it means prolonged periods without seeing the football. But the 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior has been key in the Knights’ biggest moments this season, and he knows as the Class A playoffs progress, Southeast’s passing game may end up determining how far the Knights get.
After eliminating Omaha North 35-10 in the first round last week, the fifth-ranked Knights (9-1) take their next step with a quarterfinal matchup against No. 7 Omaha Westside (8-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Seacrest Field.
“It’s always a fun time watching our offensive line move people and Nick (Halleen) run them over,” said Appleget, who has 26 catches for 518 yards and four touchdowns this fall. “I always have to be ready to throw a block downfield if Nick breaks free.”
He always has to be prepared if the opposition is successfully packing the box and grinding the run game to a halt. And the South Dakota State recruit answered the call both times the Knights needed him this season.
Appleget had seven receptions for 141 yards and a TD in the Knights’ peculiar 16-14 season-opening loss to defending state champion, No. 4 Omaha Burke. It appeared Southeast had kicked the game-winning field goal in the final seconds, only to have the play negated by an offsides penalty on Burke, which is a deadball infraction in high school. Burke then blocked the next field goal try from 5 yards closer.
Appleget played an integral role in Southeast’s first game against Westside, a 22-17 Knights victory in which they overcame a 17-7 fourth-quarter deficit to win.
He caught five passes for 82 yards in that contest, including a 10-yard reception in the game-winning drive, which ended with Halleen scoring on a 38-yard run with 1:04 left in the game to cap off a 203-yard rushing day.
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“If teams stack up to stop the run, Shadon (Shannon) and Coleby (Daffer) can both throw and we have a lot of receivers who can make plays,” said Appleget, who is complemented on the outside by juniors Derek Branch, Taveon Thompson and Ethan Steer.
Appleget not only has the height, but he also possesses the speed to be a big-play threat. He was timed in under 4.50 electronically in the 40-yard dash this past summer.
Southeast coach Ryan Gottula said Appleget’s full skill set as a receiver — size, speed and hands — were on display in his 36-yard touchdown reception from Daffer in the third quarter against North last week.
“He had the speed to get behind the defender, and with his height, he was able to go up and get the ball,” Gottula said. “It’s nice having that kind of playmaking ability on the outside.”
Appleget, the grandson of retired Fremont Hall of Fame track and cross country coach Jon Appleget, is also a factor defensively, where his younger brother, sophomore Jake Appleget, also stars as an outside linebacker.
Isaac Appleget, who is being looked at both as a wide receiver and safety by Jackrabbits, has 22 tackles and four pass breakups this season in the Knights’ secondary. The 6-4, 195-pound Jake Appleget, a likely Division I college recruit like his brother, has 50 tackles, five interceptions and four pass breakups from his hybrid linebacker/safety spot.
Besides also being a backup wide receiver on offense, Jake Appleget handles the Knights’ punting duties as well.
“I prefer defense; it’s pretty fun,” said Jake Appleget, who also plays basketball and baseball for the Knights. “I just like stopping the game, holding the other team down and not letting them score.”