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Friday night high school football

Bishop Neumann players stand for the national anthem ahead of Friday night's Class C-1 playoff game in Wahoo. Beginning next season, the Big Ten will schedule six games each season on Friday nights in the fall. Nebraska is expected to play one road game and one home game over the next three years.

Ashland-Greenwood

Mascot: Bluejays

Class C-1, District 1

NSAA enrollment: 101

The coach

Ryan Thompson

At present school: 11th year

Career record: 68-41

Season outlook

Ashland-Greenwood relied heavily on a large group of sophomores and juniors last season, and those players picked up valuable experience. The Bluejays return several skill-position players, including running back Bryce Kitrell. Hunter Washburn, now a junior, threw for 775 yards and nine touchdowns. Senior Nolan Kasuske, a three-year starter, highlights the defensive backfield. He had two picks and seven pass breakups a year ago. Four linemen graduated last year, so it could take some time for the new unit to come together. Coach Ryan Thompson said mental toughness and finishing games will be keys to determining how far this team will go.

Returning starters

Offense: 6

Defense: 5

Hunter Washburn, QB/DB, 5-10, 165, Jr.

Nolan Kasuske, WR/DB, 6-1, 175, Sr.

Sawyer Buller, WR/DB, 5-11, 160, Sr.

Bryce Kitrell, RB/LB, 5-10, 190, Jr.

Jacob Ludwig, OL/DL, 6-1, 205, Jr.

Kyle vonRentzell, TE/LB, 6-0, 180, Jr.

Spotlight player

Bryce Kitrell ran for 1,060 yards as a sophomore last year and scored 11 total touchdowns. He was also the team's leading receiving, catching 18 passes for 196 yards.

Fast fact

The Bluejays created 14 turnovers last season, including nine fumble recoveries.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 10

Last appearance: 2015

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Fort Calhoun, A

Aug. 31, Platteview, H

Sept. 7, Fairbury, A

Sept. 14, Boys Town, H

Sept. 21, Auburn, A

Sept. 28, Falls City, H

Oct. 5, Lincoln Christian, A

Oct. 12, Nebraska City, A

Oct. 19, Lincoln Lutheran, H

District games in bold


Auburn

Mascot: Bulldogs

Class C-1, District 1

NSAA enrollment: 95

The coach

Tony Janssen

At present school: 4th year

Career record: 14-14

Season outlook

After a successful regular season and a playoff berth, Auburn must replace several valuable players, but the talent is in place to continue momentum. Running back Baily Darnell rushed for 1,156 yards and 20 touchdowns last year, and is gaining Division I interest. Drew Dixon returns at quarterback after rushing for 943 yards and passing for 365 more. Success in 2018 may hinge on how fast a revamped offensive line comes together. Defensive end Branden Lavigne (58 tackles last year) and linebacker TJ Roybal (70 tackles) are among the top players on the defensive side of the ball.

Returning starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 5

Baily Darnell, RB/LB, 6-1, 185, Sr.

Drew Dixon, QB/S, 5-9, 165, Sr.

Caden Chapin, C/LB, 6-0, 170, Sr.

Branden Lavigne, TE/DE, 6-3, 185, Sr.

TJ Roybal, G/LB, 6-0, 205, Sr.

Brody Darnell, QB/CB, 5-10, 145, So.

Colton Chapin, OL/DT, 6-2, 260, Jr.

Spotlight player

Baily Darnell will again be a mainstay on both sides of the ball. He averaged nearly 11 yards per carry last season and had 24 tackles and an interception from his linebacker spot.

Fast fact

Auburn's eight wins in 2018 were the program's most since 2006.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 15

Last appearance: 2017

State titles: 1 (2006)

The schedule

Aug. 24, Fairbury, A

Aug. 31, Fort Calhoun, H

Sept. 7, Milford, H

Sept. 14, Omaha Concordia, A

Sept. 21, Ashland-Greenwood, H

Sept. 28, Nebraska City, A

Oct. 5, Lincoln Lutheran, H

Oct. 12, Lincoln Christian, H

Oct. 18, Falls City, A

District games in bold


Bishop Neumann

Mascot: Cavaliers

Class C-1, District 4

NSAA enrollment: 88

The coach

Tim Turman

At present school: 38th year

Career record: 298-156-2

Season outlook

Bishop Neumann turned to a large group of juniors and sophomores last year following a state runner-up finish in 2016. Now the Cavaliers are looking to take advantage of their experience. They return all of their skill-position players, including quarterback Eli Vedral, who threw for 545 yards and rushed for 602 yards. Fullback Luke Fairbanks (556 yards last year) and running back Brandon Blum (579) also return. They'll be running behind an offensive line anchored by Caden Johnson. The defense returns several key pieces, and head coach Tim Turman said he thinks it will be the strength of the team. The Cavaliers will be without returning starting junior safety Taylen Pospisil because of a season-ending ACL injury this summer.

Returning starters

Offense: 6

Defense: 6

Brandon Blum, RB/C, 5-9, 150, Sr.

Luke Fairbanks, FB/B, 6-0, 190, Sr.

Caden Johnson, T/E, 6-3, 240, Sr.

Conrad Saner, C/N, 5-11, 240, Sr.

Juke Unger, R/C, 5-10, 150, Sr.

Eli Vedral, QB/DB, 6-1, 180, Sr.

Spotlight player

Caden Johnson is one of the more dominant two-way linemen in the state, and he's gaining Division I attention. He finished with 75 tackles last season, including a team-high 12½ behind the line of scrimmage.

Fast fact

Bishop Neumann finished with 2,177 rushing yards last year, with 2,009 of those yards coming from underclassmen.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 26

Last appearance: 2017

State titles: 3 (1977, 2002, 2003)

The schedule

Aug. 24, Boys Town, H

Aug. 30, Lincoln Lutheran, A

Sept. 7, Fort Calhoun, H

Sept. 14, Lincoln Christian, A

Sept. 21, Columbus Lakeview, H

Sept. 28, Columbus Scotus, A

Oct. 5, Wahoo, H

Oct. 12, Raymond Central, A

Oct. 19, Wayne, A

District games in bold


Fairbury

Mascot: Jeffs

Class C-1, District 5

NSAA enrollment: 93

The coach

Kameron Lenhart

At present school: Third year

Career record: 17-3

Season outlook

Fairbury will have a new look in 2018 after finishing unbeaten in regular-season play last year. The Jeffs will have some big holes to fill after the graduation of QB Adam Wasserman (1,543 passing yards and 936 rushing yards), running back Jacob Johnson (1,617 yards and 23 TDs) and wideout Cayman DeBoer (949 yards and 15 TDs). Fairbury does have experience up front with Joe Melcher, John Kerwood and Ace York, and lineman Dalton Buxton is looking to come back from injury. Junior Devin Wanamaker is expected to take over at quarterback. The defense must replace nine starters, including seven of the top eight tacklers.

Returning starters

Offense: 3

Defense: 2

Seth Firmanik, RB/LB, 5-11, 185, Jr.

Joe Melcher, OL/DL, 6-3, 220, Jr.

John Kerwood, OL/DL, 6-0, 220, Jr.

Ace York, OL/LB, 5-10, 170, Sr.

Spotlight player

Seth Firmanik is making the move to running back. He's also key on defense after finishing his sophomore season with 59 tackles, including seven for loss.

Fast fact

Fairbury averaged 56.2 points per game last year.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 7

Last appearance: 2017

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Auburn, H

Aug. 31, Beloit (Kan.), A

Sept. 7, Falls City, H

Sept. 21, Aurora, A

Sept. 28, Milford, H

Oct. 5, Central City, A

Oct. 12, Sandy Creek, A

Oct. 19, Fillmore Central, H

District games in bold


Falls City

Mascot: Tigers

Class C-1, District 1

NSAA enrollment: 103

The coach

Darin Fritz

At present school: 7th year

Career record: 39-19

Season outlook

With eight returning starters, the defense could anchor coach Darin Fritz's team while the offense develops. Two-way linemen Jaxson Lunsford and Braden Oliver will anchor the Tigers in the trenches. There are plenty of options for ball carriers this season, as Cade Schawang and Alex Rathje both have starting experience. Rathje is returning from an injury. The Tigers have a lot of experience at all three levels on defense. Schawang leads the way in the defensive backfield, and Phoenix Martin, Jaxson Lunsford and Braden Oliver return up front.

Returning starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 8

Collin Cook, QB/LB, 6-0, 190, Sr.

Cade Schawang, RB/DB, 5-10, 175, Sr.

Phoenix Martin, E/DB, 6-0, 170, Sr.

Alex Rathje, RB/LB, 5-8, 165, Sr.

Jaxson Lunsford, OL/DL, 5-10, 235, Jr.

Braden Oliver, OL/DL, 5-10, 235, Jr.

Trey McAfee, RB/DB, 5-7, 160, Jr.

Cole Kirkendall, RB/LB, 6-1, 170, Jr.

Spotlight player

Quarterback Collin Cook is the starting point for Falls City's single-wing offense. He's a punishing runner who rushed for 461 yards last year, but he also has an accurate arm.

Fast fact

Falls City had three straight seasons with at least six wins from 2013 to 2015.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 9

Last appearance: 2015

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Milford, A

Aug. 31, Raymond Central, H

Sept. 7, Syracuse, A

Sept. 14, Fairbury, A

Sept. 21, Lincoln Christian, H

Sept. 28, Ashland-Greenwood, A

Oct. 5, Nebraska City, H

Oct. 12, Lincoln Lutheran, A

Oct. 18, Auburn, H

District games in bold


Fillmore Central

Mascot: Panthers

Class C-1, District 5

NSAA enrollment: 70

The coach

Mitchell Lockhart

At present school: Third year

Career record: 4-14

Season outlook

The Panthers take on the challenge of moving up to Class C-1, but they have some young talent to work with. Sophomore Jake Stoner and junior Brock Tatro have starting experience and will carry the ball plenty. Stoner rushed for 740 yards in eight games last year, and added 167 receiving yards. Three starting offensive linemen return, including senior Riley Moses, who is 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds. Carson Scott and Carson Tatro appear to be candidates to replace Kole Karcher at quarterback. The Panthers are strong at linebacker, where Koby Head is expected to lead the way, and Parker Uldrich and Seth Kenley have experience.

Returning starters

Offense: 6

Defense: 6

Brock Tatro, RB/DB, 5-9, 150, Jr.

Parker Uldrich, RB/LB, 5-8, 140, So.

Seth Kenley, RB/LB, 6-0, 200, Sr.

Jake Stoner, RB/LB, 5-10, 165, So.

Kolby Head, RB/LB, 5-10, 160, So.

Riley Moses, OL/DL, 6-3, 275, Sr.

Kalon Cooper, OL/DL, 6-1, 230, Jr.

Elijah Rose, OL, 5-10, 210, Jr.

Spotlight player

Riley Moses plays both ways and is a mainstay in the trenches. He had 60 tackles last season, while setting a school record with 71 knock-down blocks. Moses is receiving college attention.

Fast fact

Fillmore Central runs the pistol-wing offense.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 7

Last appearance: 2014

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Columbus Lakeview, A

Aug. 31, Holdrege, H

Sept.7, Sandy Creek, H

Sept. 14, Minden, A

Sept. 21, Superior, A

Sept. 28, Aurora, H

Oct. 5, Milford, A

Oct. 12, Central City, H

Oct. 19, Faibury, A

District games in bold


Milford

Mascot: Eagles

Class C-1, District 5

NSAA enrollment: 73

The coach

Marty Hingst

At present school: 40th year

Career record: 255-164-2

Season outlook

Milford returns experience at key spots. Nate Mensik split time at quarterback and rushed for 429 yards on 68 attempts last year. He'll work behind a line that returns three starters, including senior Zach Schluckebier, who brings a lot of size. The Eagles' top tackler last year, Sam Copley, returns at linebacker, however, coach Marty Hingst and the Eagles will be putting an emphasis on tightening the screws on the defensive side. The Eagles allowed more than 300 yards per game last year.

Returning starters

Offense: 6

Defense: 6

Mitch Wingard, RB, 5-8, 180, Sr.

Zach Schluckebier, OL/DL, 6-2, 220, Sr.

Nate Mensik, QB, 6-1, 170, Sr.

Nate Hostetler, WR, 5-9, 160, Sr.

Carson Stauffer, OL/DL, 6-0, 190, Jr.

Evan Richards, OL/DL, 5-11, 220, Sr.

Sam Copley, LB, 5-9, 155, Sr.

Isaac Yeackley, S, 5-9, 152, So.

Spotlight player

Mitch Wingard is the straw that stirs the drink for Milford. He rushed for 1,211 yards last year, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He's also a key leader on the field and in the weight room.

Fast fact

Six of Milford's nine opponents reached the playoffs last year, including Class B power Aurora, which is dropping down a class for the next scheduling cycle.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 2

Last appearance: 2014

State titles: 2 (1995, 1996)

The schedule

Aug. 24, Falls City, H

Aug. 31, Adams Central, A

Sept. 7, Auburn, A

Sept. 14, Lincoln Lutheran, H

Sept. 21, Central City, H

Sept. 28, Fairbury, A

Oct. 10, Fillmore Central, H

Oct. 12, Aurora, A

Oct. 19, Doniphan-Trumbull, H

District games in bold


Nebraska City

Mascot: Pioneers

Class C-1, District 1

NSAA enrollment: 156

The coach

Dan Hempel

At present school: 2nd year

Career record: 0-9

Season outlook

Nebraska City is making the move down to Class C-1 this season. The Pioneers also return seven starters on each side of the ball, so they'll look to rely on experience. Bryce Levy is back at quarterback, and Tyler Levy, who hauled in 43 catches for 571 yards as a sophomore, returns as the go-to target. The defense will be led by Jaydin Aldana, who has 42 tackles last year, including 14½ for loss, and was an all-district performer. Linebacker Nick Zaroban had 37 tackles last year. The Pioneers will also get back a pair of players -- Trenton Fahey and Max Chaney -- from injury.

Returning starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 7

Jaydin Aldana, OT/DT, 6-2, 245, Sr.

Tyler Levy, WR/DB, 5-8, 180, Sr.

Bryce Levy, QB, 5-10, NA, Sr.

Skyler Self, WR/CB, 5-9, 175, Sr.

Nick Zaroban, LB/RB, 6-0, 200, Sr.

Brady Rose, TE/LB, 5-11, 195, Sr.

Alfredo Leos, NT, 5-7, 265, Jr.

Eli Southard, WR/S, 5-11, 170, Jr.

Zach Benton, DE, 5-9, 215, Sr.

Wyatt Roberts, OL/DT, 6-2, 295, So.

Spotlight player

Bryce Levy returns at quarterback after throwing for 1,402 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He also was the team's second-leading rusher at 30.7 yards per game.

Fast fact

Nebraska City is returning most of its receiving production from a year ago. Of the Pioneers' 112 receptions last year, 84 were by underclassmen.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 8

Last appearance: 2003

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Schuyler, A

Aug. 31, Wahoo, A

Sept.7, Platteview, H

Sept. 14, Raymond Central, H

Sept. 21, Lincoln Lutheran, A

Sept.28, Auburn, H

Oct. 5, Falls City, A

Oct. 12, Ashland-Greenwood, H

Oct. 19, Lincoln Christian, A

District games in bold


Raymond Central

Mascot: Mustangs

Class C-1, District 4

NSAA enrollment: 89

The coach

Wade Houchin

At present school: 1st year

Career record: 0-0

Season outlook

Wade Houchin takes over in his first job as head coach after assisting at Lincoln Christian, and he brings with him option football. He'll have plenty to work with in terms of returning players. Eight players who started on both sides of the ball are back. Easton Albrecht is the leading returning tackler, and Mikey McCoy is the leading returning rusher. "We also have a talented group of younger players that will have a chance to see quality playing time if they can quickly grasp our cultural expectations, commit to the strength and conditioning program, and adequately learn our systems for all three phases of the game," Houchin said.

Returning starters

Offense: 8

Defense: 8

Easton Albrecht, LB/TE, 5-10, 160, Sr.

Ethan Boyd, DB/WR, 5-9, 150, Jr.

Tyler Egger, DL/OL, 5-11, 200, Sr.

Mikey McCoy, DB/RB, 5-6, 145, Jr.

Josh Palenski, LB/TE, 5-10, 180, Sr.

Eli Pickel, LB/WR, 5-8, 150, Sr.

Christian Schweitzer, DL/OL, 6-2, 210, So.

Cody Swartz, DL/OL, 5-9, 180, Sr.

Spotlight player

Senior Easton Albrecht will be a two-way starter for the Mustangs at tight end and linebacker. Houchin said he'll be a strong leader.

Fast fact

Three teams in Raymond Central's district — Bishop Neumann, Wahoo and Columbus Lakeview — made the playoffs last year.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 10

Last appearance: 2013

State titles: 0 

The schedule

Aug. 24, DC West, H

Aug. 31, Falls City, A

Sept. 7, Louisville, H

Sept. 14, Nebraska City, A

Sept. 21, Columbus Scotus, H

Sept. 28, Wahoo, A

Oct. 5, Hastings SC, H

Oct. 12, Bishop Neumann, H

Oct. 19, Columbus Lakeview, A

District games in bold


Wahoo

Mascot: Warriors

Class C-1, District 4

NSAA enrollment: 136

The coach

Chad Fox

At present school: 17th year

Career record: 106-51

Season outlook

With one of the more talented rosters in the state, Wahoo made a deep run in the 2017 playoffs. The Warriors will miss the contributions of players such as Cameron Quick, Dylan Egr and Brendan Lacy, but plenty of experience returns in the trenches. Sam Kolterman, Jack Sutton, Gunnar Vanek and Brandon Swahn have starting experience up front. The Warriors must find a quarterback to replace Quick, but as many as five running backs are ready to contribute, including junior Trevin Luben, who averaged 8.1 yards per carry in a backup role last year. The Warriors will look to rely on their defensive front seven while the secondary builds experience.

Returning starters

Offense: 4

Defense: 4

Zane Bennett, RB/DB, 5-9, 170, Sr.

Sam Kolterman, OL/LB, 6-0, 205, Sr.

Jack Sutton, OL/DL, 6-3, 235, Sr.

Gunnar Vanek, OL/DL, 6-3, 230, Jr.

Brandon Swahn, OL/DL, 5-11, 210, Jr.

Spotlight player

Sam Kolterman is a force on the wrestling mat and on the gridiron. The state champion wrestler had 114 tackles last year, including a school-record 13 sacks. He also caused five fumbles and blocked three kicks.

Fast fact

Wahoo has reached at least the second round of the playoffs seven times since 2009.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 22

Last appearance: 2017

State titles: 0 

The schedule

Aug. 24, Wayne, A

Aug. 31, Nebraska City, H

Sept. 7, Aurora, A

Sept. 14, Platteview, A

Sept. 21, West Point-Beemer, H

Sept. 28, Raymond Central, H

Oct. 5, Bishop Neumann, A

Oct. 12, Columbus Lakeview, H

Oct. 19, Columbus Scotus, A

District games in bold

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