World-Herald staff writer Stu Pospisil breaks down the Eight-Man 1 football season, including the top 10 teams, games and players to watch and more.
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Eight Man-1 Top 10
1. Exeter-Milligan (12-1 in 2012): Last year's runner-up returns six starters on each unit, including a senior quartet of quarterback-linebacker Nolan White (6-foot-2, 195 pounds), running back-safety James Sluka (5-9, 160) and linemen Garrett Pribyl (6-0, 195) and Nathan Oliva (5-8, 190). Junior Kyle Jensen (5-11, 175) ran for 987 yards and had 13 takeaways last year.
2. Howells-Dodge (10-1): With the state's athlete of the year, Nathan Bazata, off to Iowa, the Jaguars need to rebuild their offensive line and interior defense. Seniors Luke Hegemann (6-4, 205) and Danny Widhelm (6-2, 225) return at defensive end, with Casey Wisnieski (5-11, 175) the incumbent at quarterback. Junior running back Jesse Faltys (6-1, 195) will be a big yardage gainer.
3. Elgin/Pope John (13-0): All that remains from last year's state championship starting lineup is junior guard-linebacker Kyle Heithoff (6-0, 185). Even coach Carlie Wells is gone, off to Perkins County, with Randy Eisenhauer the new man on the sideline.
4. West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic (7-2): Another contender with 12 returning starters, the Bluejays have a strong senior class topped by quarterback Eric Wiebold and lineman Trent Ortmeier.
5. Creighton (8-2): Four seniors will be three-year starters for the Bulldogs — tight end-linebacker Seth Wilmes (6-4, 205), linemen Ian Fuchtman (6-1, 205) and Lane Jacobsen (5-11, 230) and defensive back Justin Wilmes (5-11, 171). And the team has a four-year starter and three-time 1,000-yard rusher in Jacob Morrill (6-0, 189).
6. High Plains (9-2): The Storm's graduation losses included three linemen and quarterback Tanner Fate. Logan Engel (6-0, 175), last year's backup, is a senior expected to take Fate's place. There's still good size in the line with seniors Ben Nunnenkamp (6-3, 210) and Wyatt Fleming (5-10, 240).
7. Arapahoe (11-1): At the helm of the Warriors' pistol offense is senior Caden Weverka (5-11, 185), who ran for 1,334 yards and 28 touchdowns last year. Anthony Shimmin (5-11, 170) is a senior with good speed at running back and defensive back.
8. Clarkson/Leigh (5-4): The Patriots have the luxury of 14 returning seniors, who should fill the few holes in a lineup with 11 returning starters. Jesse Gall is a 5-11, 190-pound senior tight end and linebacker.
9. Palmer (7-2): “If we can find a backfield, we could be a very tough team,” Tigers coach Nathan Glause said. He has the quarterback, his son Kordell, a 6-foot, 170-pound senior. Seniors Brett Santin (6-1, 200) and Heath McClellan (6-3, 220) anchor the lines.
10. Randolph (5-4): The Cardinals have several three- or four-year starters. The biggest need is replacing several linemen. Top offensive threats include senior quarterback Nolan Nordhues (6-1, 165) and junior running back Dylan Loberg (6-0, 195).
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Returning Eight Man-1 all-state players
|PHOTOS: FEATURED PREP PLAYERS|
|See a photo showcase featuring players to watch from around the state.|
LB Nolan White, Exeter-Milligan, 6-2, 195, Sr.: Defensive leader is one of several key players back from state runner-up unit.
P-RB-DB Jarrod Bantam, Alma, 6-1, 170, Sr.: Averaged 41.1 yards on 23 punts.
OTHERS TO WATCH THIS YEAR:
RB-LB Jesse Faltys, Howells-Dodge, 6-1, 195, Sr.: Showed potential when healthy as a sophomore, scoring 16 times.
RB-LB Logan Fleming, High Plains, 5-10, 165, Sr.: Should be in the 1,000-yard club after getting to 824 last year.
L Trent Ortmeier, West Point GACC, 6-4, 260, Sr.: He'll be the lead blocker for the likes of Nathan Hass in the Jays' backfield.
QB-DB Kordell Glause, Palmer, 5-11, 170, Sr.: Run-pass threat also is a solid place-kicker and had 4 INTs on defense.
RB-LB Jacob Morrill, Creighton, 6-0, 189, Sr.: Bidding to be a rare four-time 1,000-yard rusher.
OL-LB Scott Borcher, Pawnee City, 5-11, 205, Sr.: A sure tackler, his coach says. And he can play center or guard on offense.
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Additional Eight Man-1 info
District 1: Exeter-Milligan, Freeman, Friend, Johnson-Brock, Nebraska City Lourdes, Pawnee City
District 2: Cedar Bluffs, Clarkson/Leigh, Howells-Dodge, Omaha Christian, Omaha Nation, West Point Guardian Angels
District 3: Allen, Emerson-Hubbard, Hartington, Pender, Randolph, Winnebago
District 4: Cross County, East Butler, High Plains, Nebraska Christian, Shelby
District 5: BDS, Franklin, Harvard, Heartland, McCool Junction, Red Cloud
District 6: Bloomfield, Creighton, Elgin/Pope John, Neligh-Oakdale, Niobrara/Verdigre, Plainview
District 7: Boyd County, Burwell, Clearwater/Orchard, CWC, North Central, O'Neill St. Mary's
District 8: Ansley-Litchfield, Loup City, Palmer, South Loup, Twin Loup
District 9: Alma, Arapahoe, Bartley Southwest, Elm Creek, Overton
District 10: Hemingford, Maxwell, Morrill, Paxton, SMC, Sutherland
FINAL 2012 RANKINGS
1. Elgin/Pope John, 13-0, 664-123
2. Exeter-Milligan, 12-1, 598-235
3. BDS, 10-2, 471-202
4. Howells-Dodge, 10-1, 522-175
5. High Plains, 9-2, 592-194
6. Arapahoe, 11-1, 538-170
7. Elm Creek, 9-2, 397-271
8. Creighton, 8-2, 476-162
9. West Point GA, 7-2, 446-185
10. Burwell, 9-1, 438-152