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Oakland-Craig vs. Centennial, prep football, 11.9.18

Centennial quarterback Wyatt Ehlers (22) is pursued by Oakland-Craig defender Tyson Harney (55) as Broncos' Cole Gocke (70) blocks Laurence Brands (77) in the first quarter Nov. 9 during the Class C-2 state semifinal at Centennial High School. 

It’s amazing the kind of motivation that comes from a couple of cousins with football gold medals around their necks.

A year ago, senior all-stater Caleb Cast and his Centennial teammates brought home silver medals after the Broncos reached the Class C-2 state championship game. His cousins, Tyler and Wyatt Cast, were able to do one better as part of York’s Class B state title squad a year ago.

Caleb Cast plans to have postseason reconstructive knee surgery to replace bone and cartilage that has died in his right knee from previous injuries. That hasn’t stopped him, however, from being one of the leaders for the No. 2 Broncos (12-0), who take on top-ranked Norfolk Catholic (11-1) in the C-2 title game at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday at Memorial Stadium.

“It hasn’t been that bad,” the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Caleb Cast said about the pain in his knee. “The knee brace I wear helps a lot, it takes a lot of the pressure off.”

After three straight undefeated regular seasons and a 12-1 finish last year following the loss to Yutan in the state finals, there’s some pressure on the Broncos to finish the job this time.

“We need to win so they (his cousins) can’t hold them (the gold medals) over my head like they have this past year,” Caleb Cast said.

Some of Cast’s cartilage will be shipped to Boston, where a lab will regrow it, and then shipped back to be surgically replaced. He said the surgery will likely be two months after the season ends because it takes eight weeks to grow the cartilage.

He’s made the most of his senior year as an offensive tackle and defensive end. Caleb Cast leads the team in tackles (97), while also handling the Broncos’ kicking duties.

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“Caleb’s tough, and he never complains about it,” senior all-state wide receiver Jackson Hirschfeld said. “Outside of the knee brace, you’d never know anything was wrong by the way he plays.”

When Cast had his knee scoped last spring and all the other issues were then discovered, “we weren’t sure we were going to have him at all this season,” Centennial coach Evan Klanecky said.

“For him to be here and have the season he’s had is amazing,” the coach added. “He’s a dominant player. He’s not the fastest, the most flexible or the smoothest, but when he puts his hand in the dirt before the ball’s snapped, look the hell out. He has a motor that doesn’t stop and he’s the poster child of that tough farm kid who just outworks people.”

Centennial was a predominately junior team a year ago, and when the Broncos walked off the Memorial Stadium turf after the state finals, they knew that the 2017 C-1 champion, Norfolk Catholic, would be dropping to C-2 this season.

The Knights returned four all-staters off that team — Super-State lineman and Nebraska recruit Ethan Piper, running back Dylan Kautz, lineman Joe Teten and running back/defensive back Evan Smith.

“We’ve gotten a lot of questions about it all year; now it’s actually going to happen,” Hirschfeld said. “People are getting what they want. It’s almost like we’re an underdog, so we’re embracing that. It’s something a little different for us.”

The Broncos are battle-tested with a schedule that’s featured five teams currently rated and two others that were in the top 10 when Centennial played them. Centennial also has a pair of fourth-quarter comeback wins over No. 4 BRLD and No. 5 Aquinas.

“It’s not so much the ‘wow factor’ like it was last year when we got to the finals,” Centennial all-state quarterback Wyatt Ehlers said. “This year, Memorial Stadium is where we expected to play. This is a business trip, not a field trip.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7437 or rpowell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @ronpowell_ljs.

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Sports reporter

Ron Powell is a longtime prep writer for the Journal Star. He covers high school football, boys basketball and track as well as state college football and Husker and professional tennis.

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