World-Herald staff writer Stu Pospisil breaks down the Class C-1 football season, including the top 10 teams, games and players to watch and more.
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Class C-1 Top 10
1. Norfolk Catholic (12-1 in 2012): Like their primary challengers, the Knights graduated most of last year's starters but are expected to reload as usual. Only five starters, three on offense and two on defense, return. After three years with his son, Jordan, as quarterback, coach Jeff Bellar expects to use senior Zach Pospisil (5-foot-10, 155 pounds). Senior running back Jackson Love (5-11, 195) ran for 1,192 yards and 18 touchdowns as the Knights won their record third straight C-1 title.
2. Pierce (10-2): Four of the Bluejays' six returning starters are on offense, led by senior quarterback Lane Rohrich (6-3, 175) and all-state lineman Charles Krueger, a 6-2, 230-pound senior. Others back are seniors Austin Druyor (5-8, 235) in the line and Chance Larsen (6-1, 195) at tight end and outside linebacker.
3. Boone Central/Newman Grove (11-2): After reaching the state finals, the Cardinals bring back five starters on offense and four on defense. Taking over for graduated all-state quarterback Tanner Mazour will be either 5-9, 175-pound junior Wyatt Mazour, his brother, or sophomore Kyle Kramer (6-3, 175). Coach Arnold Johnson likes his stable of backs and receivers and a defense that he said is full of playmakers.
4. Adams Central (11-1): A pair of returning two-way starters for the Patriots are senior lineman Lathan Smidt (6-2, 220) and junior fullback-linebacker Jack Barry (5-9, 185). Buzz Niederklein, who rushed for 842 yards and 13 TDs as a part-time back last year, is a 5-9, 180-pound senior who is a third-year starter at linebacker.
5. Wahoo (9-2): While newcomers in the backfield gain their footing, the Warriors will call on their experience in the lines to get them through. The leader is 6-7, 270-pound senior Trevor Carstens. Senior linebacker Kirk Lindstrom (6-0, 210) was last year's leading tackler. Ben Scheef (6-3, 200), a senior who was hurt all of last year, should get the first call at quarterback.
6. Kearney Catholic (10-1): Young linemen must step up, coach Dave Colling said, for the Stars to shine as bright as last year's team that went undefeated until the quarterfinals. Thomas Connely (5-11, 170) is an 1,100-yard rusher who looks to take over at quarterback for three-year starter Abe Clinch.
7. Columbus Lakeview (6-3): A first-round playoff knockout ended what the Vikings regarded as a disappointing season. Defense and special teams must improve, coach Kurt Frenzen said, to avoid a repeat. The offense, which averaged 420 yards a game last year, is led by third-year starting quarterback Jack Shadley (6-1, 175), who threw for 1,902 yards as a junior.
8. Wahoo Neumann (2-6): Coming off their first losing season since 1999, the Cavaliers expect to rebound behind 16 returning starters. Travis Carnahan, who was to be last year's starting quarterback before getting hurt before the season, is a 5-10, 175-pound senior who will join junior incumbent Cameron Benes (5-11, 170) in playing either quarterback or I-back. The lines are a little small and thin in numbers.
9. Lincoln Christian (6-4): The Crusaders also have 16 returning starters, led by senior 6-4 quarterback Logan Power. The multi-sport athlete has a D-I basketball offer from Pacific. Ben Plambeck at running back and wide receivers Leighton Chicoine and Jared Bubak (a sophomore) give plenty of options on offense. There's not much depth in the lines, but good size.
10. Gothenburg (6-5): A pair of playoff shutouts buoy the Swedes' hopes for a successful season. They return eight on defense, including 6-9, 260-pound junior Tanner Borchardt. Senior Adam Speck (6-1, 225) also was an all-district lineman. Running backs must be restocked.
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Class C-1 games worth seeing
Listed with matchup date and 2012 results.
Columbus Lakeview at Norfolk Catholic, Aug. 29, NC 30-20: Lakeview needs a strong showing to be included in title talk.
Pierce at Boone Central/Newman Grove, Sept. 6, BCNG 21-7: Both teams play beefy schedules.
Boone Central/NG at Norfolk Catholic, Sept. 13, NC 35-31, 24-13: Rematch of last year's state title game.
Adams Central at Wilber-Clatonia, Sept. 13, AC 21-7: Wolverines one of two teams to score on Patriots in 2012 regular season.
Wahoo Neumann at Wahoo, Oct. 11, W 41-0: Neumann figures to be much improved after falling off to 2-6.
Lincoln Lutheran at Lincoln Christian, Oct. 11, LC 53-20: It's possible both teams could get here undefeated.
Norfolk Catholic at Pierce, Oct. 18, P 20-19, NC 34-14: These days, the state championship goes through these teams.
Gothenburg at Kearney Catholic, Oct. 24, KC 31-0: Could be the best teams west of Grand Island.
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Returning Class C-1 all-state players
OL Charlie Krueger, Pierce, 6-2, 230, Sr.: Coach Mark Brahmer ranks him as one of the best linemen in school history.
K David Almanza, Chase County, 6-1, 135, Sr.: Got carried off the field after ending a three-OT win over Gothenburg.
OTHERS TO WATCH THIS YEAR:
QB-DB Jack Shadley, Columbus Lakeview, 6-1, 175, Sr.: Already has thrown for 4,086 yards in his career.
QB-LB Thomas Connely, Kearney Catholic, 5-11, 170, Sr.: Ran for 1,101 yards as the Stars' running back last year.
IB-ILB Jackson Love, Norfolk Catholic, 6-0, 195, Sr.: With a new quarterback, Knights will call on him early and often.
QB Logan Power, Lincoln Christian, 6-4, 215, Sr.: Averaged 230.7 yards a game in total offense in 2012.
RB Jake Paulsen, Cozad, 5-10, 160, Sr.: Two-time 1,000-yard rusher will get college looks in football and track.
RB-DB Carter Zlab, Wilber-Clatonia, 6-1, 175, Jr.: With speed in the 4.5 range and willing to hit, he's a dangerous defender.
QB TD Stein, Chadron, 6-1, 180, Sr.: Threw for 1,832 yards and 18 touchdowns last year.
L Matt Clark, Syracuse, 6-5, 280, Jr.: Teams last year already were running away from him.
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Additional Class C-1 info
4,086: Career passing yards for Columbus Lakeview senior Jack Shadley
“Last season was hard for us to swallow.” — Wahoo Neumann coach Tim Turman, on the Cavs' 2-6 record in 2012
District 1: Arlington, Boys Town, Douglas County West, Fort Calhoun, Omaha Concordia
District 2: Auburn, Falls City, Lincoln Christian, Lincoln Lutheran, Syracuse
District 3: Ashland-Greenwood, Logan View, Raymond Central, Wahoo, Wahoo Neumann
District 4: Norfolk Catholic, Pierce, Wayne, West Point-Beemer
District 5: Boone Central/Newman Grove, Columbus Lakeview, Columbus Scotus, David City, Madison
District 6: Fairbury, Fillmore Central, Milford, Sandy Creek, Wilber-Clatonia
District 7: Adams Central, Central City, Gibbon, Grand Island Central Catholic, St. Paul
District 8: Ainsworth, Broken Bow, O'Neill, Ord, Valentine
District 9: Chase County, Cozad, Gothenburg, Kearney Catholic, Minden
District 10: Chadron, Gordon-Rushville, Mitchell, Ogallala
FINAL 2012 RANKINGS
1. Norfolk Catholic, 12-1, 517-179
2. Boone Central/NG, 11-2, 454-177
3. Pierce, 10-2, 469-170
4. Adams Central, 11-1, 397-60
5. Wahoo, 9-2, 428-180
6. Kearney Catholic, 10-1, 353-61
7. Fort Calhoun, 9-2, 328-225
8. Wilber-Clatonia, 8-2, 344-109
9. Grand Island CC, 7-3, 223-189
10. Boys Town, 6-4, 318-291