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Caden Johnson

Bishop Neumann's Caden Johnson is a standout on the football field and in the throws.

Teams to watch

(In alphabetical order)

Preseason ratings run Aug. 18

Adams Central (4-5): With nine starters back on offense and eight more on defense, the Patriots are worth keeping an eye on. Junior running back Gabe Conant rushed for 1,052 yards last season and junior quarterback Evan Johnson has thrown for 3,092 career yards.

Auburn (8-2, C-1 state first round): Five starters are back on both sides of the ball, a group that includes Baily Darnell, who combines size and speed running the ball.

Aurora (5-5, B state first round): A rebuilding year of sorts last season in Class B for the Huskies could add up to big things in C-1 this year. They return eight starters on offense, including the senior duo of quarterback Baylor Scheierman and receiver Cade Reichardt and junior lineman Ryan Marlatt (6-foot-3, 280).

Bishop Neumann (5-5, C-1 state first round): All five of the Cavaliers’ losses last season came to teams ranked in the top five. With six starters back on both sides of the ball led by senior all-state lineman Caden Johnson and senior quarterback Eli Vedral, Neumann should once again compete for the state title.

Boone Central/Newman Grove (10-3, C-1 state finalist, No. 4 final ranking): Graduation hit the Cardinals hard with the loss of all-state quarterback Dylan Gentrup and defensive lineman Jessie Sullivan. Seven seniors return with starting experience, including three-year regular Jon Merten at center and defensive end.

Columbus Lakeview (7-3, C-1 state first round): Led by senior RB/LB Jacob Frenzen (788 yards rushing, 76 tackles) and lineman Cody Thompson (6-2, 295), the Vikings have six starters back on both offense and defense.

Columbus Scotus (3-6): A tough schedule and a pair of one-point losses kept the Shamrocks from a winning season in 2017. Young players, however, got experience and 14 starters are back between both sides of the ball. Scotus does not possess great size, but will depend on speed and aggressiveness. Keep an eye on junior athlete Tyler Palmer (6-1, 165).

Gothenburg (7-3, C-1 state first round): The Swedes have seven starters back both offensively and defensively and add an intriguing prospect in 6-2, 205-pound running back Trenton Harbur, a transfer from 6-man Stapleton who has a scholarship offer from South Dakota State.

Kearney Catholic (7-3, C-1 state first round): Replacing record-setting all-state quarterback Matt Masker and all-state receiver Brett Kaiser will not be easy, but senior linemen Eli Richter and Sam Clinch and senior RB Linden Howe should help make the transition a little easier.

Pierce (7-5, C-1 state semifinals): Many of the key players from the Bluejays’ state playoff run from last year return with eight starters back on both sides of the ball. Junior quarterback Dalton Freeman had 1,530 yards of total offense, including 831 rushing and 13 TDs. Junior Brett Tinker had 138 tackles (11 for losses).

Sidney (4-5): With 16 starters back from a team coming down from Class B, the Red Raiders should fare well in C-1 with a senior-dominated team and maturity on the offensive and defensive lines.

Wahoo (10-2, C-1 state semifinals, No. 2 final ranking): The Warriors were hit hard by graduation, but should be competitive once again even though just four starters are back on both sides of the ball. A pair of state champion wrestlers will lead the way: senior all-state linebacker Sam Kolterman and senior OL/DL Jack Sutton (6-3, 235).

Players to watch

RB/LB Bryce Kitrell, Ashland-Greenwood, 6-0, 190, jr.: Rushed for 1,060 yards and 11 TDs as a sophomore. Also a factor defensively.

RB/LB Baily Darnell, Auburn, 6-1, 185, sr.: The South Dakota State commit had 1,156 yards rushing with 20 TDs and registered 24 tackles on defense.

QB Baylor Scheierman, Aurora, 6-6, 180, sr.: South Dakota State basketball recruit threw for 2,424 yards and 28 TDs last season.

WR Cade Reichardt, Aurora, 6-0, 180, sr.: Broke the Class B state record for receptions with 74 last season, good for 1,043 yards and 14 TDs, which tied the state record.

QB/LB Eli Vedral, Bishop Neumann, 6-2, 180, sr.: Accounted for 1,147 yards of total offense. Also a factor defensively with 50 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

OT/DE Caden Johnson, Bishop Neumann, 6-3, 240, sr.: Coach Tim Turman calls the all-stater one of the best linemen he’s ever coached (75 tackles last season).

OL/DL Eli Richter, Kearney Catholic, 6-5, 230, sr.: The returning all-stater has caught college coaches’ attention with his height, strength (400-pound squat) and agility (4.8 speed in the 40). 

OL/LB Sam Kolterman, Wahoo, 6-0, 205, sr.: The 2018 Class B 195-pound wrestling state champion had 114 total tackles, 16 for losses, 13 sacks, a fumble recovery, five caused fumbles and three blocked kicks last year.

What’s new in 2018

Defending state champion Norfolk Catholic has moved down to Class C-2 as well as perennial power Aquinas, which almost knocked off the Knights in the quarterfinals of the playoffs last season. Aurora, one of the top teams in Class B for a number of years, moves into C-1, falling into the boys enrollment range of 70 to 159.

Key games

A24: Adams Central at Aurora, Aquinas at Columbus Scotus, Norfolk Catholic at Pierce.

A31: Aurora at Kearney Catholic.

S7: Wahoo at Aurora, Columbus Lakeview at Boone Central/NG, West Point-Beemer at Columbus Scotus.

S14: Gothenburg at Adams Central, Aurora at Northwest, Columbus Scotus at Pierce.

S21: Columbus Lakeview at Bishop Neumann.

S28: Bishop Neumann at Columbus Scotus, Boone Central/NG at West Point-Beemer, Pierce at Columbus Lakeview, Sidney at Scottsbluff.

O5: Aurora at Boone Central/NG, Wahoo at Bishop Neumann, Columbus Scotus at Columbus Lakeview.

O12: Kearney Catholic at Adams Central, Columbus Lakeview at Wahoo, Pierce at West Point-Beemer.

O19: Boone Central/NG at Pierce, Wahoo at Columbus Scotus.

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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