World-Herald staff writer Stu Pospisil breaks down the Class C-2 football season, including the top 10 teams, games and players to watch and more.
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Class C-2 Top 10
1. David City Aquinas (13-0 in 2012): The two-time defending champions, with a 26-game winning streak, will have some new faces after losing five all-state seniors. “Our initial strength,” coach Ron Mimick said, “will be our run quickness and our defense.” Trev Semrad, a 5-foot-8, 145-pound junior, becomes the full-time quarterback.
2. Doniphan-Trumbull (9-3): In passer Riley Wiltfong (6-1, 170) and all-state running back Jordan Slough (5-11, 180), the Cardinals have two seniors who are returning 2,000-yard performers — could be a first for the state on any level. Holes to fill in the lineup are on the offensive line, at wide receiver and in the defensive secondary.
3. Sutton (12-1): For all of the talent returning at the skill positions, coach Steve Ramer said, it's how a rebuilt line comes together with “young kids” that will be the difference between a long and a great season. In the backfield are seniors Cole Wiseman (6-0, 180) at quarterback and Trae Ramer (5-9, 185) at running back, with junior Noah Johnson a 6-1, 195-pound running back. They combined for more than 300 yards a game on the ground.
4. Norfolk Lutheran (11-1): The Eagles, who return only nine starters, look to shift senior Shaka Taylor (5-10, 170) from wide receiver to quarterback. The running backs are largely unproven, but they'll get nice holes behind the blocking of 6-4, 295-pound senior lineman Ryan Freudenberg.
5. Crofton (7-2): Third-year starting quarterback Alex Jansen, a 6-2, 180-pound senior, leads the Warriors. They return 12 starters, six on each side. Also back is senior fullback-linebacker Corbin Wavrunek (5-10, 195), injured all of last season. Jake Guenther (6-1, 235) is a senior who ranks as Crofton's best lineman.
6. North Platte St. Patrick's (10-1): The core group for the Irish consists of seniors and skill players. Coach Kevin Dodson said the need is to develop depth and linemen. None of the nine returning starters tops 200 pounds.
7. Hastings St. Cecilia (6-4): The Bluehawks hadn't suffered a four-loss season since 1996, so the 14 returning starters are seeking a better campaign this season. The defense is the strongest at linebacker and defensive end. Quarterback is an unsettled position.
8. West Holt (7-3): Eight returning starters on defense is a strong point for the Huskies. So is Josh Coyle, their 5-10, 195-pound senior who rushed for 1,907 yards and 30 touchdowns a year ago. He'll run behind four new starters in the offensive line. The squad has its best numbers in a while, coach Steve Neptune said.
9. Hartington Cedar Catholic (5-5): The fourth school from its district to be ranked in the C-2 preseason. There's good size, starting with 275-pound senior Connor Wieseler, to anchor the lines. Ryan Blecker, a 170-pound junior, is a returning 1,000-yard rusher.
10. Oakland-Craig (6-4): The Knights, who open with Cedar Catholic on Sept. 6, must replace only two starters on each unit. They have a good mix of juniors and seniors. Nick Arlt (5-10, 170) is a junior who ran for 1,750 yards and scored 24 touchdowns last year while making three interceptions and 71 tackles as a safety. Jacob Dixon (6-0, 190) is a senior linebacker.
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Class C-2 games worth seeing
Listed with matchup date and 2012 results.
Hartington Cedar Catholic at Oakland-Craig, Sept. 6, HCC 29-28: Two of Oakland-Craig's three regular-season losses were by one point.
David City Aquinas at Columbus Scotus, Sept. 6, DCA 34-14: C-1 Scotus could be the best opponent on the Aquinas schedule.
Blue Hill at Doniphan-Trumbull, Sept. 13, BH 28-18: Cardinals held to their season low in points by Blue Hill.
Ravenna at North Platte St. Patrick's, Sept. 20, NPSP 43-13: A good measuring stick for St. Pat's against teams east of it.
West Holt at Norfolk Lutheran, Sept. 27, NL 38-24: Hartington Cedar Catholic at Crofton, C 28-21: District opener for all four teams, and their district is loaded again.
Hastings St. Cecilia at Sutton, Oct. 4, S 14-6: Key game in a district that includes Doniphan-Trumbull.
Sutton at Doniphan-Trumbull, Oct. 11, S 36-29, 36-18: Last year's state runner-up had difficulty slowing down the Cardinals' offense.
Crofton at Norfolk Lutheran, Oct. 11, NL 20-14: Could prove to settle their district title, just like last year.
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Returning Class C-2 all-state players
WR-CB Mitchell Ruybalid, Blue Hill, 6-0, 160, Sr.: Will try to duplicate his 24-yards-per-catch average with a new quarterback.
QB Cole Wiseman, Sutton, 6-0, 180, Sr.: Took the Mustangs to the 2012 state championship game.
RB-FS Josh Coyle, West Holt, 5-10, 195, Sr.: Tough-to-tackle back has posted back-to-back all-state campaigns.
RB-WR-DB Jordan Slough, Doniphan-Trumbull, 5-10, 180, Sr.: A game-breaker who'll line up at RB or WR, he scored 33 TDs in 2012.
OTHERS TO WATCH THIS YEAR:
QB Riley Wiltfong, Doniphan-Trumbull, 6-1, 170, Sr.: C-2's version of Papio's Alec Ditoro, throwing for 30 touchdowns as a junior.
L Jake Reader, Kimball, 6-3, 220, Sr.: His nose for the football led to five fumble recoveries and nine sacks in 2012.
L Ryan Freudenberg, Norfolk Lutheran, 6-4, 295, Sr.: He'll anchor both lines for a team coming off an 11-1 season.
RB-DB Nick Arlt, Oakland-Craig, 5-10, 170, Jr.: Sophomore year was sensational: 1,750 yards rushing and a state wresting title.
FB-DB TJ Gregory, Cambridge, 5-11, 175, Sr.: Should be shifting from quarterback, where he led the Trojans in rushing.
L Connor Wieseler, Hartington CC, 6-3, 275, Sr.: Hurt for all but four games last year, he averaged 11 tackles a game.
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Additional Class C-2 info
26: Consecutive victories for David City Aquinas, longest active winning streak in the state
“He watched more film and prepares like no other quarterback that we've had.” — Doniphan-Trumbull coach Brent Breckner on senior Riley Wiltfong
District 1: Conestoga, Elmwood-Murdock, Louisville, Omaha Brownell-Talbot, Weeping Water
District 2: Humboldt-Table Rock-Steinauer, Johnson County, Palmyra, Southern, Tri County
District 3: Homer, Laurel-Concord, Ponca, Wakefield, Wisner-Pilger
District 4: Fremont Bergan, North Bend, Oakland-Craig, Stanton, Tekamah-Herman
District 5: Centennial, David City Aquinas, Malcolm, Twin River, Yutan
District 6: Battle Creek, Crofton, Hartington Cedar Catholic, Norfolk Lutheran Northeast, West Holt
District 7: Doniphan-Trumbull, Hastings St. Cecilia, Superior, Sutton, Thayer Central
District 8: Blue Hill, Centura, Ravenna, Southern Valley, Wood River
District 9: Cambridge, Dundy County-Stratton, Hershey, North Platte St. Patrick's
District 10: Bayard, Bridgeport, Kimball, Perkins County
FINAL 2012 RANKINGS
1. David City Aquinas, 13-0, 601-136
2. Norfolk Lutheran NE, 11-1, 486-223
3. Sutton, 12-1, 526-172
4. Fremont Bergan, 8-3, 418-222
5. Doniphan-Trumbull, 9-3, 492-207
6. North Platte SP, 10-1, 439-79
7. Crofton, 7-2, 287-109
8. West Holt, 7-3, 280-201
9. Hastings SC, 6-4, 279-136
10. Hershey, 6-5, 195-178