Teams to watch
(In alphabetical order)
Preaseason ratings run Aug. 19
Beatrice (8-2, B state first round, No. 8 final ranking): New coach Todd Ekart won’t have graduated Super-State senior Cameron Jurgens (now a tight end at Nebraska), but one of the fastest players in Class B, junior Andrew Mahoney, leads three offensive starters and five defensive starters back.
Blair (6-4, B state first round, No. 9 final ranking): The Bears bring back five offensive starters and six on defense. The quarterback-receiver duo of Stewart Cemer and Quincy Nichols, as well as four linemen — Gabe Rand, Tommy Thompson, Brady Soukup and Trevor Rutcosky — return as starters. Andy Straube is a force as a safety.
McCook (9-2, B state quarterfinals, No. 5 final ranking): The Bison didn’t seem to miss a beat with Super-State LB/QB Zach Schlager sidelined most of last season by injury. Schlager is now at Colorado State but 11 players who started last season are back. LB/TE DJ Gross, a senior all-stater who is the son of head coach Jeff Gross and a South Dakota commit, leads the way defensively, while junior quarterback Cameryn Berry is the offensive headliner.
Norris (4-5): The Titans have nine offensive starters and seven defensive regulars back from last season, a group led by junior Ashton Hausmann, a standout sprinter in track who looks to replace graduated all-state running back Austin Schultz. Norris also lost all-state defensive end Bryce Stai (now at Ohio) and multi-talented junior Tyler Ruhl, who is now at Centura after his father, Ryan, took the superintendent job there.
Northwest 7-4 (B state quarterfinals, No. 10 final ranking): The Vikings will once again be one of the top passing teams in Class B with senior all-state quarterback Carter Terry returning after throwing for 5,012 yards as a sophomore and junior combined.
Omaha Roncalli (5-5, B state first round): Five starters are back on offense and seven return on defense, and senior standout Alex Rodgers leads on both sides of the ball.
Omaha Skutt (10-3, B state runner-up, No. 2 final ranking): As usual, the SkyHawks just reload for another push at a state title. Four starters are back on offense and seven more return on defense with a number of juniors in key spots after meaningful contributions as sophomores. Senior tight end/defensive end TJ Skradski, senior RB/OLB Jarod Epperson and junior QB/S Tyson Gordon headline the returners.
Scottsbluff (9-2, B state quarterfinals, No. 6 final ranking): The Bearcats return more than just Nebraska linebacker recruit and Super-State senior Garrett Nelson. Six starters are back on offense, a group that includes senior RB Chris Busby and 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior lineman Sam Clarkson. In addition to Nelson on defense, all-state defensive back Keegan Reifschneider returns after making nine interceptions last season.
Seward (4-5): This appears to be a breakout year for the Bluejays with eight offensive starters back and seven more on defense. Quarterback Joseph Krause threw for more than 2,200 yards last season and brings back a group of receivers in seniors Carson Core and Brett Meyer and junior Ben Myers who combined for 1,609 yards in receptions. Junior running back Davon Brees will take pressure off the passing game.
Waverly (6-4, B state first round): Behind senior dual-threat quarterback Rhett Jordon, senior running back Kaleb Canoyer (708 yards rushing and senior receiver Jay Adams (34 catches, 542 yards, seven TDs), the Vikings should be a factor offensively with nine starters back. Senior linebacker Logan Schuelke (6-2, 220) leads seven starters returning on defense.
York (12-1, B state champion, No. 1 final ranking): The Dukes bring back several keys pieces from the title team, enough to make them the preseason favorite. Nebraska recruit and first-team Super-State senior Garrett Snodgrass dominates at linebacker defensively and can play quarterback, running back or tight end offensively. Another senior Super-Stater, Brady Danielson, excels at both wide receiver and defensive back, while all-state lineman Noah Stafursky can control the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Players to watch
WR/CB Andrew Mahoney, Beatrice, 5-9, 150, jr.: Mahoney used his sprinter speed for 737 yards of total offense a year ago and nine TDs.
WR/DB Quincy Nichols, Blair, 5-8, 155, sr.: He caught a school-record 56 passes for 762 yards and eight TDs a year ago. As a defensive back, Nichols had 34 tackles and three interceptions.
TE/LB DJ Gross, McCook, 6-2, 215, sr.: The South Dakota recruit and all-stater has 223 tackles over the past two seasons and 16 tackles for losses.
OL/DL Colin Giron, McCook, 6-3, 240, sr.: Giron has 102 tackles from his nose-guard spot, and with 4.9 speed, can disrupt the passing pocket and force quarterbacks to scramble.
QB/FS Cameryn Berry, McCook, 5-11, 155, jr.: Had a breakout sophomore season with 617 yards rushing and another 648 passing and 15 total touchdowns.
RB/LB/DB Ashton Hausmann, Norris, 5-10, 190, jr.: One of the top sprinters in Class B track last spring averaged 5.4 yards per carry as a sophomore in football and had 41 tackles defensively.
QB Carter Terry, Northwest, 6-1, 185, sr.: The all-stater completed 60 percent of his passes for a Class B record 2,724 yards and 33 TDs a year ago.
RB/LB Alex Rodgers, Omaha Roncalli, 6-0, 185, sr.: Rushed for over 1,000 yards and 14 TDS offensively as a junior and led the Crimson Pride in tackles with 70 and also intercepted a pass.
TE/DE TJ Skradski, Omaha Skutt, 6-6, 240, sr.: The standout figures to be impact player on the edge both offensively and defensively. Has the speed to play wide receiver as well.
DE/FB Garrett Nelson, Scottsbluff, 6-3, 240, sr.: The Nebraska recruit made big play after big play last season with 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, seven sacks and a fumble recovery. Nelson is versatile enough that he can play a number of defensive positions, making it harder for opposing blockers to focus on him.
RB/DB Chris Busby, Scottsbluff, 5-11, 170, sr.: A gamebreaker who rushed 1,524 yards and 19 TDs as a junior.
WR/DB Keegan Reifschneider, Scottsbluff, 5-11, 175, sr.: Picked off nine passes as an all-stater last season and also averaged more than 30 yards per catch as a wide receiver.
QB Joseph Krause, Seward, 6-1, 180, sr.: The two-year starter has passed for 3,875 yards and 34 touchdowns in his career, including 2,206 and 20 scores last season.
QB Rhett Jordon, Waverly, 5-10, 180, sr.: The dual-threat passed for 735 yards and 10 TDs as a junior and rushed for a team-high 778 yards and 12 more scores.
QB/LB Garrett Snodgrass, York, 6-3, 225, sr.: Offensively, the Nebraska recruit can do it all. As a quarterback last year, he rushed for 1,542 yards and 20 TDs and passed for 692 and seven more scores. As a tight end, he had 26 receptions for 426 yards and a TD. Defensively he led York with 86 tackles.
WR/DB Brady Danielson, York, 6-3, 205, sr.: The all-state basketball player last winter earned first-team Super-State football honors in 2017 by intercepting seven passes, making 31 tackles and hauling in 37 catches for 846 yards and 12 TDs.
OL/DL Noah Stafursky, York, 6-4, 310, sr.: The all-stater is one of the best linemen in Nebraska regardless of class and is getting Division I college attention.
New in 2018
Reclassification has sent traditional Class B powers Elkhorn, Elkhorn South and Gretna to Class A and Aurora to C-1, so the 23-team field looks significantly different than the 32 teams in Class B before boys enrollment ranges (160-424 for B boys football) were instituted to determine football classification.
A24: Norris at Beatrice, Waverly at Seward.
A31: Blair at York, Northwest at McCook, Omaha Roncalli at Omaha Skutt.
S7: McCook at York, Northwest at Scottsbluff, Waverly at Omaha Roncalli.
S14: Beatrice at McCook, Norris at Blair, York at Omaha Skutt.
S21: Norris at Waverly, York at Beatrice, Northwest at Seward.
S28: Beatrice at Northwest, Seward at Crete.
O5: York at Northwest, Waverly at Omaha Skutt.
O12: York at Seward.
O19: Omaha Skutt at Norris, McCook at Scottsbluff, Beatrice at Seward, Blair at Omaha Roncalli.