The quarterback matchup between Waverly’s Mason Nieman and Hastings’ Jarrett Synek is one the Vikings’ senior standout and Nebraska walk-on prospect has some control over.
As a safety on defense, Nieman will be part of a Waverly secondary that will try to slow down Synek, a junior who has thrown for 2,363 yards and 27 touchdowns coming into the Class B No. 7 Tigers’ quarterfinal football playoff game at No. 2 Waverly (9-1) on Friday night.
But as a quarterback on an offense averaging 351 yards per game rushing, Nieman also knows that the best defense might be long drives, possessing the ball and keeping Synek and company on the sidelines.
“It will be a tough matchup for our secondary, but we’ve seen great passing quarterbacks earlier in the season, so I think we’ll be ready,” said the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Nieman, a safety recruit for the Huskers who has rushed for 1,049 yards and 11 TDs this season.
“If we play Waverly football where we control the line of scrimmage offensively and run behind those guys up front, it will slow down their passing game,” Nieman added.
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Waverly has already faced the top two passers in Class B — Bennington’s Nick Bohn (2,915 yards, 37 TDs) and Omaha Roncalli’s Jack Dotzler (2,580 yards, 32 TDs). The Vikings beat Bennington 34-20 in Week 2 and Roncalli 48-33 the next week.
They’ve also seen two of the best dual-threat signal-callers in B in Norris’ Aidan Oerter and Omaha Skutt’s Tyson Gordon. Waverly split in those two contests, prevailing over the eighth-ranked Titans 21-14 in Week 5 and falling in overtime 28-21 to No. 1 and defending state champion Skutt in Week 7.
“We’ve seen them all this season, and hopefully that’s made us better defensively,” Waverly coach Reed Manstedt said. “No question we have a huge challenge Friday night. Their quarterback has put up great numbers, and he has some dangerous weapons to throw to on the outside.”
Four juniors are Synek’s main targets — Carson Shoemaker (50 catches, 683 yards, eight TDs), Austin Nauert (29 catches, 513 yards, five TDs), Gareth Jones (24 catches, 369 yards, one TD) and Braden Kalvelage (20 catches, 472 yards, seven TDs).
Something providing a little extra motivation for Waverly on Friday night is the fact that a victory will likely set up a rematch with Skutt in the semifinals. The Vikings reached the semifinals in 2018 before Skutt ended their season on its way to the state championship.
“We learned from that game (against Skutt earlier in the season) that we can’t hurt ourselves with mistakes and blown opportunities and expect to win against a team like that,” Nieman said. “We knew how close we came, but also that we had a lot of stuff to work on.
“That’s why we’re so focused this week,” he said. “We want another shot (at Skutt).”
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