The defending champions
Wilcox-Hildreth, 12-0 last season, lost two all-staters to graduation, most notably running back A.J. Jenkins, who was the player of the year in the class. The Falcons, however, do bring back junior all-stater Lane Lieb, who’s ready to assume more of the load this fall.
Other teams to watch
(In alphabetical order)
Preseason ratings run Aug. 23
Harvard (10-1, D-6 state semifinals, No. 2 final ranking): Three starters return, led by all-state linebacker Noah Okraska and RB David Reazola, the state six-man leading returning rusher from last year with 1,719 yards.
Hay Springs (11-1, D-6 state runner-up, No. 3 finals ranking): The Hawks lose all-state running back Trent Reed, but bring back standout senior RB/LB Bryce Running Hawk (932 all-purpose yards last season, 147 tackles) and starting senior QB/OLB Baiden Planasky (88 tackles).
Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family (6-2, No. 8 final ranking): Three starters return on both offense and defense, a group led by senior Bryce Classen, junior Zach Pfeifer and 6-3 sophomores Jason and Jacob Sjuts.
McCool Junction (8-2, D-6 state quarterfinals, No. 4 final ranking): A trio of returning starters — senior Dana Hobbs and juniors Owen McDonald and Kaden Kirkpatrick (6-4, 240) — make the Mustangs a state contender.
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Minatare (9-2, D-6 state semifinals, No. 5 final ranking): Four starters are back on each side of the ball, and Indians have one of the best linemen in six-man in senior Isaac Gomez (5-10, 225).
RB/DB Lane Lieb, Wilcox-Hildreth, 5-10, 160, jr.: Replacing A.J. Jenkins’ 2,752 yards rushing and 46 TDs will not be an easy task, but Lieb is one who will help fill the void. He’s a proven defensive player with 80 tackles, three interceptions and five fumble recoveries.
QB/LB Noah Okraska, Harvard, 6-0, 175, sr.: The all-state linebacker had 87 tackles last season with three sacks, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries. As the quarterback, he passed for 1,060 yards and ran for 558 more.
A30: Spalding Academy at Harvard.
S6: Humphrey/LHF at McCool Junction.
S13: Harvard at Silver Lake, Minatare at Cody-Kilgore.
S27: Cody-Kilgore at Hay Springs, Spalding Academy at Humphrey/LHF.
O4: Hays Springs at Minatare.