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East Butler vs. South Loup, D-1 state football final, 11/20/17

East Butler's Jaden Rhynalds (6) pushes aside South Loup's Jack Rush (5) in the first half of the Class D-1 state final at Memorial Stadium last fall.

BDS

Mascot: Eagles

Class D-1, District 1

NSAA enrollment: 45

The coaches

Mark Rotter and Chris Ardissono

At present school: 17th year

Career record: 208-60

Season outlook

After a dominant state playoff run, BDS will look to reload. The Eagles must replace all but one starter on offense, and six starters on defense. Having all-stater John Christensen back at quarterback will help. He's one of the top dual-threat signal-callers in the state. Isaac Kamler, Kameron Dickson, Logan Schroeder, Caleb Hendrickson and Josiah Kamler are expected to take on bigger roles as playmakers. Jacob Schoenholz returns to anchor the defensive front. In addition to rebuilding, BDS will make the move back to Class D-1 after two years in D-2.

Returning starters

Offense: 1

Defense: 2

John Christensen, QB/LB, 6-1, 205, Sr.

Jacob Schoenholz, NG, 6-0, 240, Sr.

Spotlight player

John Christensen rushed for 923 yards and 19 touchdowns last season and finished 81-for-123 passing for 1,281 yards and 26 touchdowns. Christensen added 86 tackles.

Fast fact

BDS will play four teams dropping from 11-man to eight-man -- Elmwood-Murdock, H-TR-S, Southern and Cross County.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 8

Last appearance: 2017

State titles: 2 (2015, 2017)

The schedule

Aug. 31, Elmwood-Murdock, H

Sept. 7, Palmer, A

Sept. 14, Lourdes CC, A

Sept. 21, Southern, H

Sept. 28, Tri County, A

Oct. 5, H-TR-S, A

Oct. 12, Cross County, H

Oct. 19, Thayer Central, H

District games in bold


Cross County

Mascot: Cougars

Class D-1, District 3

NSAA enrollment: 42

The coach

Hayden DeLano

At present school: 2nd year

Career record: 1-8

Season outlook

Cross County relied on a lot of youth last year, starting three freshmen and six sophomores at times. Now the Cougars are hoping that experience carries over as they drop to Class D-1. The Cougars must adjust to eight-man football, but they have plenty of depth. Just about every starter returns, including quarterback Grant Hollinger. His favorite target is Alex Pinkelman, who set a single-season school record for receiving yards last year. The defense will be led by junior Colton Nuttelman, who is primed for a breakout season.

Returning starters

Offense: 9

Defense: 7

Alex Pinkelman, WR, 6-1, 185, Sr.

Dylan Sperling, LB, 6-0, 175, Sr.

Kjell Marsden, OL, 5-11, 200, Sr.

Cade Brazda, OL/DL, 5-9, 200, Sr.

Grant Hollinger, QB, 6-3, 170, Sr.

Randy Rafert, DE, 6-1, 175, Jr.

Cael Lundstrom, QB/DB, 6-0, 145, Jr.

Wyatt Graham, LB, 5-11, 150, Jr.

Colton Nuttelman, RB/LB, 5-9, 155, Jr.

Landen Berck, RB/LB, 5-8, 150, Jr.

Christian Rystrom, DB, 5-11, 150, So.

Isaac Noyd, RB/DB, 5-7, 145, So.

Lincoln Kelley, OL, 5-8, 175, So.

Spotlight player

Grant Hollinger is a three-year starter at quarterback, but coach Hayden DeLano is looking at other ways to utilize his top playmaker, including using him at wide receiver.

Fast fact

Cross County's schedule includes games against both eight-man champions from last season in East Butler (D-1) and BDS (D-2 last year).

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 10

Last appearance: 2016

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Wisner-Pilger, H

Aug. 31, Palmer, A

Sept. 14, Fullerton, H

Sept. 21, Osceola-High Plains, A

Sept. 28, East Butler, H

Oct. 5, Nebraska Lutheran, A

Oct. 12, BDS, A

Oct. 18, EMF, H

District games in bold


East Butler

Mascot: Tigers

Class D-1, District 3

NSAA enrollment: 34

The coach

Shawn Biltoft

At present school: 17th year

Career record: 97-54

Season outlook

Behind a balanced offensive attack, East Butler played its best football at the right time in 2017, resulting in a state championship. The Tigers must find replacements at several skill positions, including quarterback. Jaden Rhynalds, who played wideout last year, could be called upon to play quarterback. In front of him are two returning starters in linemen Nolan Makovicka and Corden Novotny. Junior tailback Wade Wright is among the players expected to take on bigger roles on offense. Novotny anchors the defense, while Wright and Austin Pierce are expected to compete for starting spots at linebacker.

Returning starters

Offense: 3

Defense: 3

Jaden Rhynalds, QB/DB, 5-10, 135, Jr.

Nolan Makovicka, OL/DL, 6-1, 175, Jr.

Corden Novotny, OL/DL, 6-0, 250, Sr.

Spotlight player

Several playmakers graduated, so East Butler will turn to players such as Jaden Rhynalds, who caught 12 passes for 212 yards and five touchdowns.

Fast fact

The Tigers won the D-1 state title in 2017 and have been in the playoffs for three straight years.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 20

Last appearance: 2017

State titles: 2 (1989, 2017)

The schedule

Aug. 24, Guardian Angels CC, H

Aug. 31, Wisner-Pilger, A

Sept. 7, Nebraska Christian, H

Sept. 21, Nebraska Lutheran, H

Sept. 28, Cross County, A

Oct. 5, EMF, H

Oct. 12, Osceola-High Plains, A

Oct. 18, Brownell Talbot, A

District games in bold


Elmwood-Murdock

Mascot: Knights

Class D-1, District 2

NSAA enrollment: 47

The coach

Lance Steffen

At present school: 1st year

Career record: 8-3

Season outlook

New coach. New class. It's a new era of football at Elmwood-Murdock, which drops from the 11-man ranks for the first time in 30 years. The Knights' transition to eight-man also includes a search for a new quarterback. Noah Wiley is likely to be a top candidate after leading the junior varsity team to a 4-1 mark in 2017. Andy Meyer was among a committee of running backs last year, and rushed for 419 yards. Jacob Closner is expected to provide help at wideout. Tyler Marlatt brings quickness and size at offensive tackle and defensive end, while Massimo Lojing provides experience in the secondary.

Returning starters

Offense: 4

Defense: 4

Andy Meyer, FB/LB, 5-9, 160, Sr.

Jacob Closner, E/DB, 5-11, 162, Sr.

Drake Spohr, RB, 5-9, 173, Jr.

Tyler Marlatt, OT/DE, 6-3, 230, Jr.

Sam Behrends, OT/DT, 5-11, 210, Jr.

Massimo Lojing, E/DB, 5-10, 150, Jr.

Jared Drake, RB/LB, 5-11, 176, So.

Spotlight player

Running back Drake Spohr missed most of the 2017 season because of injury, but he's expected to make a full recovery and will be counted on to help carry the load on offense.

Fast fact

Lance Steffen, a 2010 Elmwood-Murdock graduate, enters his first year as head coach at the school. He was at Perkins County prior to making the move back home.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 16

Last appearance: 2015

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Johnson-Brock, H

Aug. 31, BDS, A

Sept. 7, Mead, H

Sept. 21, Lourdes CC, A

Sept. 28, Weeping Water, H

Oct. 5, Southern, A

Oct. 12, Brownell-Talbot, H

Oct. 18, Palmyra, A

District games in bold


Exeter-Milligan/Friend

Mascot: Timberwolves

Class D-1, District 3

NSAA enrollment: 45

The coach

Dean Filipi

At present school: 35 years

Career record: NA

Returning starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 5

Edwen Baptista, RB/LB, 6-11, 175, Sr.

Spencer Pribyl, RB, 6-3, 180, Sr.

Johnny Babula, DL, 6-0, 190, Sr.

Slater Wells, OL, 5-10, 190, Sr.

Max Zeleny, LB, 5-10, 185, Jr.

Nick Hayek, OL, 5-10, 165, Jr.

Trevor Zelenka, DB, 5-9, 150, Sr.

Colton Bossaller, RB, 5-10, 180, Sr.

Jacob Bottom, DL, 6-1, 180, Jr.

Spotlight player

Edwen Baptista provides power and speed at both running back and linebacker. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns last season for Friend, while also finishing with eight tackles for loss.

Fast fact

Exeter-Milligan and Friend has already been co-oping for junior high football the past few seasons.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: Exeter-Milligan 15, Friend 14

Last appearance: Exeter-Milligan 2017, Friend 2017

State titles: Exeter-Milligan 2 (2013, 2014)

The schedule

Aug. 24, Tri County, A

Aug. 31, Palmyra, H

Sept. 7, Lourdes CC, H

Sept. 14, Thayer Central, A

Sept. 28, Osceola-High Plains, H

Oct. 5, East Butler, A

Oct. 12, Nebraska Lutheran, H

Oct. 19, Cross County, A

District games in bold

Season outlook

It's a new era of football for the Exeter-Milligan and Friend programs, which are co-oping in football for the first time. How long it takes the players to adjust to the new setting will be key. The combination of the two programs will provide plenty of depth of some positions. Edwen Baptista and Spencer Pribyl could provide a strong combination in the offensive backfield, and Slater Wells and Nick Hayek bring valuable reps to the trenches. Max Zeleny was a strong contributor at linebacker for Exeter-Milligan last year, while Friend's Jacob Bottom emerged as a sophomore, finishing with 51 tackles.


H-TR-S

Mascot: Titans

Class D-1, District 1

NSAA enrollment: 44

The coach

Quentin Coatney

At present school: Seventh year

Career record: 8-41

Season outlook

H-TR-S is making the move to eight-man, but remains a young and undersized team. That won't stop the Titans from spreading the ball around. Isaiah Lockard, Jayden McNealy and Cade Patzel are expected to headline a deep pool of wideouts, while Kade Shiley returns at running back. Conner Bredemeier anchors the defense, and Lockard brings experience to the secondary.

Returning starters

Offense: 4

Defense: 5

Conner Bredemeier, QB/LB, 6-1, 190, Sr.

Isaiah Lockard, WR/CB, 5-7, 135, Jr.

Jayden McNealy, WR/CB, 5-7, 135, So.

Kade Shiley, RB/LB, 5-7, 150, Sr.

Cade Patzel, WR/S, 5-6, 125, So.

Spotlight player

At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Conner Bredemeier brings size to the quarterback position in the Titans' spread offense. He's a returning starter.

Fast fact

H-TR-S, which had to forfeit two games last year because of low numbers, returns to the eight-man ranks for the first time in more than a decade.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 7

Last appearance: 2011

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Pawnee City, H

Aug. 31, Meridian, A

Sept. 7, Weeping Water, H

Sept. 21, Tri County, H

Sept. 28, Palmyra, A

Oct. 5, BDS, H

Oct. 12, Thayer Central, A

Oct. 18, Southern, A

District games in bold


Lourdes Central Catholic

Mascot: Knights

Class D-1, District 2

NSAA enrollment: 34

The coach

Clay Carlton

At present school: 3rd year

Career record: 14-7

Season outlook

Lourdes Central Catholic has been a playoff mainstay recently, and the Knights look to keep it going behind several returning skill-position players. Among them is Colter Fulton, who is a three-year starter and can line up at wideout or running back. He is capable of taking snaps, too. Thomas Carpenter can also play at running back and wideout. The Knights must replace two starters up front, but coach Clay Carlton said there are players cable of filling those holes. Quarterback will be the key position battle entering the season-opener against eight-man power Falls City Sacred Heart.

Returning starters

Offense: 4

Defense: 4

Colter Fulton, RB/LB, 5-9, 165, Sr.

Andrew Aldana, TE/LB, 5-10, 175, Sr.

Thomas Carpenter, RB/DB, 5-10, 160, Sr.

Damon Honeysuckle, OL/DL, 6-0, 190, Jr.

Spotlight player

Andrew Aldana went out for the football for the first time last year and emerged as a star for the Knights. In six games last year, he recorded 108 tackle points and 245 receiving yards. He's added some size in the offseason.

Fast fact

Lourdes Central Catholic's streak of four consecutive years in the playoffs marks the program's longest streak since 2002-09.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 22

Last appearance: 2017

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Falls City SH, A

Aug. 31, Tri County, H

Sept. 7, EMF, A

Sept. 14, BDS, H

Sept. 21, Elmwood-Murdock, H

Sept. 28, Brownell-Talbot, A

Oct. 5, Palmyra, H

Oct. 18, Weeping Water, A

District games in bold


Nebraska Lutheran

Mascot: Knights

Class D-1, District 3

NSAA enrollment: 42

The coach

Benjy Wells

At present school: Ninth year

Career record: 28-41

Season outlook

Nebraska Lutheran continued to ascend last year, its only losses coming to eventual state champion East Butler, including the second round of the playoffs. Quarterback Kyle Richert and running back Ben Riegsecker combined for more than 2,300 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns. Nebraska Lutheran will need to find a way to replace their production. In fact, the Knights will trot out eight new starters Aug. 24 against Palmyra. Brian Seaberg, who rushed 24 times for 115 yards last year, is among those competing to replace Richert. Only two starters return on defense, but linebackers Dillon Malchow and Sam Otte provide a solid core on that side of the ball.

Returning starters

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Dillon Malchow, RB/LB, 5-6, 150, Sr.

Sam Otte, OL/LB, 5-10, 170, Jr.

Spotlight player

Sam Otte is the Knights' returning leading tackler. He made 72 stops last year, including five for loss. He'll also be expected to step into a starting role on the offensive line.

Fast fact

Nebraska Lutheran has reached the state playoffs three times since 2013. Before that, the Knights' only playoff appearance came in 1996.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 4

Last appearance: 2017

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Palmyra, H

Aug. 31, Nebraska Christian, A

Sept. 7, Thayer Central, H

Sept. 14, Heartland, A

Sept. 21, East Butler, A

Oct. 5, Cross County, H

Oct. 12, EMF, A

Oct. 19, Osceola-High Plans, H

District games in bold


Palmyra

Mascot: Panthers

Class D-1, District 2

NSAA enrollment: 48

The coach

Tyler Maas

At present school: 5th year

Career record: 19-17

Season outlook

Palmyra is one of many teams transitioning from 11-man football to eight-man. Having an experienced quarterback in Koby Dillon is a good starting point. The Panthers will look for players to step up at the skill positions after the graduation of Drew Bessey, who racked up nearly 850 receiving yards last year. Kane White is among the players who could see bigger roles. There are several big holes to fill on defense as the Panthers must replace their top six tacklers from a year ago. "Staying healthy will be key, as will be the willingness of the players to work hard and adjust to new challenges/strategies in the eight-man game," coach Tyler Maas said.

Returning starters

Offense: 6

Defense: 6

Koby Dillon, QB, Sr.

Eathon Hornby, RB/LB, Jr.

Tyson Reed, WR/DB, Sr.

Kane White, WR/DB, Jr.

Koby Jones, OL/DL, Sr.

Connor Kapke, OL/DL, So.

Kaleb Kempkes, DE, Jr.

Spotlight player

Koby Dillon is a three-year starter at quarterback and he holds every passing record at the school. He threw for 1,501 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing 56 percent of his throws last year.

Fast fact

Palmyra is one of seven Class D-1 teams ineligible for the playoffs this year because of enrollment numbers.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 10

Last appearance: 2013

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Nebraska Lutheran, A

Aug. 31, EMF, A

Sept. 14, Southern, H

Sept. 21, Brownell-Talbot, A

Sept. 28, H-TR-S, H

Oct. 5, Lourdes CC, A

Oct. 12, Weeping Water, H

Oct. 18, Elmwood-Murdock, H

District games in bold


Southern

Mascot: Raiders

Class D-1, District 1

NSAA enrollment: 42

The coach

Kane Hookstra

At present school: 18th year

Career record: 56-90

Season outlook

Southern returns some key pieces from last year, including quarterback Drake Adams, who threw for 949 yards and seven touchdowns. The Raiders will look to improve their rush attack after averaging only 67 yards per game last year. Braden Klover and Payton Salts return to the backfield with some experience, and the Raiders bring back three starters up front. Salts also can make an impact in the passing game after catching 12 passes a year ago. Southern returns its top three tacklers from last season, including Klover at linebacker. Adams also provides depth at linebacker.

Returning starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 7

Drake Adams, QB/LB, 6-3, 170, Sr.

Braden Klover, RB/LB, 6-2, 210, Jr.

Loren Canfield, OL/DL, 6-1, 225, Sr.

Josh Lundstedt, OL/DL, 6-1, 250, Sr.

Nick Lyons, WR/DB, 5-11, 150, Sr.

Payton Salts, DB/RB, 5-9, 145, Jr.

Jacob Shepardson, OL/LB, 5-10, 165, Jr.

Spotlight player

Braden Klover, a junior linebacker, was a tackle machine last season, finishing with 111 total stops, including 69 solos. Klover could also see his workload at running back increase.

Fast fact

Southern, which co-oped with Lewiston for football the past two years, is dropping two classes, from C-1 to D-1. Lewiston is now six-man.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 7

Last appearance: 2014

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Diller-Odell, A

Aug. 31, Pawnee City, H

Sept. 14, Palmyra, A

Sept. 21, BDS, A

Sept. 28, Thayer Central, H

Oct. 5, Elmwood-Murdock, H

Oct. 12, Tri County, A

Oct. 18, H-TR-S, H

District games in bold


Thayer Central

Mascot: Titans

Class D-1, District 1

NSAA enrollment: 46

The coach

Jereme Jones

At present school: 3rd year

Career record: 47-53

Season outlook

In 2017, Thayer Central reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2013. Now the Titans return nine seniors, including eight who started on at least one side of the ball last year. Needless to say, there is excitement surrounding the program this year. Thayer Central must find a new starter at quarterback, but Isaiah Keilwitz returns after leading the team with 794 rushing yards in 2017. Four Titans caught at least 10 passes last year, and three of them are back, including Zach Koss, who caught a team-high 22 passes. Jarod Hergott anchors the defense. He and Phillip Price (67 stops last year) provide the Titans a strong 1-2 punch at linebacker.

Returning starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 5

Jarod Hergott, WR/LB, 5-8, 155, Sr.

Keith Hergott, OL/DL, 6-2, 200, Sr.

Isaiah Keilwitz, RB/LB, 6-1, 185, Sr.

Phillip Price, WR/LB, 6-1, 170, Sr.

Gabe Hasse, OL/DL, 6-0, 175, Sr.

Kevin Burd, OL/LB, 5-10, 185, Sr.

Shevin Solomon, OL/DL, 5-10, 230, Sr.

Zach Koss, WR/DB, 6-0, 140, Sr.

Spotlight player

Jarod Hergott led the Titans in tackles last season with 73 from his linebacker position. Known for his leadership skills, he's also expected to contribute at wide receiver.

Fast fact

Of Thayer Central's top five scorers from a season ago, four are returning, including Isaiah Keilwitz, who scored 66 points.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 11

Last appearance: 2017

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, Nebraska Christian, H

Sept. 7, Nebraska Lutheran, A

Sept. 14, EMF, H

Sept. 21, Weeping Water, A

Sept. 28, Southern, A

Oct. 5, Tri County, H

Oct. 12, H-TR-S, H

Oct. 18, BDS, A

District games in bold


Tri County

Mascot: Trojans

Class D-1, District 1

NSAA enrollment: 44

The coach

Brett Scheiding

At present school: 6th year

Career record: 19-26

Season outlook

Injuries in 2017 forced Tri County to play several young players. The Trojans remain a young team, but many of those young players have reps under their belts. That includes quarterback Cole Siems, who started five games as a freshman last year. Dominic Smith and Jack Holsing are among the players expected to step up into bigger roles at the skill positions. Brandon Beeson, another sophomore, is an athletic option on the offensive line. He also had 26 tackles at linebacker last year. Brandon Siebolt, a junior, came on strong last year, and anchors the defensive front.

Returning starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 7

Benton Gustafson, DL/OL, 6-3, 290, Sr.

Dominic Smith, LB/RB, 5-11, 155, Jr.

Brandon Seibolt, DL/OL, 5-11, 185, Jr.

Bailey Waltke, LB/RB, 5-10, 150, Jr.

Cole Siems, QB/DB, 5-11, 150, So.

Landen Chapman, LB/RB, 5-10, 155, So.

Brandon Beeson, LB/OL, 6-0, 175, So.

Lucas Weise, DL/TE, 6-3, 170, So.

Spotlight player

Dominic Smith is a versatile option for the Trojans. The junior can play wide receiver or running back, and he provides a steady presence at linebacker. Smith caught 11 passes for 132 yards and three touchdowns last year.

Fast fact

Of the five teams in the district -- BDS, H-TR-S, Southern, Thayer Central and Tri County -- four (all but BDS) were 11-man programs as of three years ago.

The trophy case

Playoff appearances: 18

Last appearance: 2016

State titles: 0

The schedule

Aug. 24, EMF, H

Aug. 31, Lourdes CC, A

Sept. 7, Pawnee City, A

Sept. 14, Meridian, H

Sept. 21, H-TR-S, A

Sept. 28, BDS, H

Oct. 5, Thayer Central, A

Oct. 12, Southern, H

District games in bold

 

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