Teams to watch
(In alphabetical order)
Preseason ratings run on Aug. 17
Arcadia-Loup City (10-1, C-2 state quarterfinals, No. 7 final ranking): The Spartans have six starters back on both sides of the ball, an array of talent that includes both size and speed.
BDS (13-0, D-2 state champions, No. 1 final ranking): The Eagles must replace five graduated all-state players and return just two starters. But having two-time all-state quarterback/linebacker John Christensen back is a good start to building another state contender.
Creighton (10-1, D-1 state quarterfinals, No. 3 final ranking): With senior all-state RB Bryce Zimmerer back an ACL injury and fellow senior OL/DL Travis Tyler (6-2, 265) and senior QB Derek Wortman also returning, the Bulldogs look like title contenders under new head coach Zac Kliment.
East Butler (11-2, D-1 state champions, No. 1 final ranking): The Tigers lose five all-state players to graduation, but do return three starters on each side of the ball led by junior QB/DB Jaden Rhynalds.
Guardian Angels Central Catholic (8-1): Five starters are back on offense and four more defensively, led by returning all-state linebacker Jared Minnick.
Howells-Dodge (11-1, D-1 state semifinals, No. 2 final ranking): The Jaguars bring back a trio of seniors in Kade and Lane Hegemann and all-state running back Dylan Horjesi.
North Central (7-3): Nine players are back with starting experience, topped by senior quarterback Jakob Heerten who threw for 1,730 yards and 18 TDs last season.
South Loup (12-1, D-1 state finals, No. 4 final ranking): The defending state runners-up has pieces back with five starters back on both sides of the ball. Replacing all-state standout QB/DB Jack Rush will not be easy.
Wakefield (7-1, No. 10 final ranking): The Trojans are ineligible for the playoffs, but with 13 starters back (six on offense, seven on defense), will be a force to be reckoned with in the regular season.
Players to watch
LB Tucker Quinn, Arcadia-Loup City, 6-0, 190, sr.: The C-2 all-stater registered 130 tackles and had two fumble recoveries and two interceptions as a junior.
QB/LB John Christensen, BDS, 6-1, 205, sr.: Christensen rushed for 923 yards and 19 TDs, passed for 1,281 yards and 26 more scores and registered 86 tackles on defense.
RB/LB Bryce Zimmerer, Creighton, 6-0, 175, sr.: The all-stater rushed for 1,136 yards and 24 TDs before an ACL injury ended his season after 6½ games.
RB/LB Jared Minnick, Guardian Angels CC, 6-0, 185, sr.: The all-stater rushed for 1,669 yards and 30 TDs as a junior and also had 63 tackles defensively.
RB Dylan Horjesi, Howells-Dodge, 5-11, 175, sr.: Earned all-state honors as a junior with 1,622 yards rushing and 25 TDs.
QB Koby Dillon, Palmyra, 5-10, 160, sr.: The three-year starter passed for 1,501 yards last season when the Panthers were playing 11-man in Class C-2.
What’s new in 2018
Defending D-2 state champion BDS moves up to D-1, and the Eagles will be battling against a number of teams that have dropped from Class C-2, 11-man with experienced squads coming back such as Lutheran High Northeast and Arcadia-Loup City. It should be an interesting season in the largest eight-man class.
Games to watch
Aug. 24: Wakefield at Creighton, Guardian Angels CC at East Butler.
Aug. 31: Guardian Angels CC at Howells-Dodge.
Sept. 7: Howells-Dodge at Wakefield.
Sept. 21: Arcadia-Loup City at South Loup, Lutheran High Northeast at Howells-Dodge.
Sept. 28: Neligh-Oakdale at Howells-Dodge.
Oct. 5: Burwell at Arcadia-Loup City, North Central at Creighton, Wakefield at Guardian Angels CC.
Oct. 12: South Loup at Burwell.
Oct. 18: Lutheran High Northeast at Neligh-Oakdale.