Stu Pospisil previews and predicts all the Nebraska state football championship games.
Defensive stops could be the definer when Pierce and Aurora bring their prolific offenses to Memorial Stadium.
Pierce averages 50 points and 535 yards a game. Aurora is at 48 points and 462 yards.
“Which defense is going to play the best? Which defense is going to turn the other team over?’’ Aurora coach Kyle Peterson said. “I think that ultimately is going to be a huge factor.
“One or two extra possessions for either offense is going to be a turning point.”
The top two teams all season in the Class C-1 ratings — Aurora is No. 1 and Pierce No. 2 — have a first-ever meeting in Tuesday’s 2:45 p.m. final. Both were in the stadium last year, Aurora losing to Bennington in Class B and Pierce losing to Columbus Lakeview in Class C-1.
Pierce coach Mark Brahmer said his defense is coming around.
“The past three weeks, it woke up,’’ he said. “We played spotty defense throughout the year, good and bad sometimes.
“The guys just finally decided to do what we've asked them to do in terms of tremendous effort. Defense, a lot of it is fundamentals, obviously understanding your role. And all 11 have to do it. You have to play like your hair's on fire. We’ve played really well against the run the past three games, a few messups against the passing game.”
Peterson said while the stats for the state record-setting Pierce passing combo of Abram Scholting to NU pledge Ben Brahmer, the coach’s son, are eye-catching, the Jays can run the ball well. Keenan Valverde has 1,805 yards and 25 touchdowns.
“It’s the tailback, it’s the quarterback run game (Scholting has 659 yards), it’s all the formations,’’ Peterson said. “It all starts at the line of scrimmage for them and I think we’re pretty good there. That’s going to be a good matchup.”
Ben Brahmer owns Class C-1 career records with his 3,260 yards and 42 touchdowns receiving and the C-1 single-season record of 18 touchdown catches. Scholting has the 11-man career record of 96 touchdown throws.
Aurora won its first two playoff games without Carlos Collazo, who’s 70 yards away from back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons. After three games out with injury, he came back for 221 yards in the Huskies’ 40-19 semifinal win over Boone Central.
“He's been healthy for a couple of weeks. We just held him out until that game,’’ Peterson said. “There was not really any reason to play him before then if we didn't have to, just to give him as much time to recover as possible.
“A healthy Carlos is a pretty good Carlos.”
Photos: All-Nebraska football teams through the years
The 2021 All-Nebraska football first team, posed in front of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at the Nebraska National Guard base at the Lincoln Airport: Sitting, from left: Grand Island's Kytan Fyfe, Omaha Westside's Caleb Benning, Bellevue West's Micah Riley-Ducker, Fremont Bergan's Koa McIntyre, Millard South's Gage Stenger, North Platte's Vince Genatone. Standing, from left: Omaha Westside's Tristan Alvano, Aurora's Gage Griffith, Elkhorn South's Maverick Noonan, Omaha North's Keshaun Williams, Papillion-La Vista's Will Hubert, Gretna's Mick Huber, Omaha Burke's Devon Jackson, Bennington's Dylan Mostek, Gretna's Zane Flores, Bellevue West's LJ Richardson, Columbus's Ernest Hausmann, Bellevue West's Henry Rickels, Gretna's Mason Goldman, Omaha Central's Deshawn Woods, Bellevue West's Kaden Helms, Pierce's Ben Brahmer, Waverly's Trevor Brown, Omaha Creighton Prep's Sam Sledge.
Standing, left to right, Omaha Westside's Cade Haberman, Lincoln Southeast's Isaac Gifford, Waverly's Trevor Brown, Omaha Westside's Cole Payton, Scottsbluff's Sabastian Harsh, Bellevue West's Thomas Ault, Omaha Westside's Avante Dickerson, Millard South's Kohl Herbolsheimer, Bellevue West's Zavier Betts, Millard West's Dalys Beanum, Lincoln Southeast's Xavier Trevino, Bellevue West's Jay Ducker, Millard West's Dane Christensen, Omaha Westside's Grant Tagge, Elkhorn South's Teddy Prochazka. Sitting, left to right, Bellevue West's Jack McDonnell, Millard South's Isaiah Harris, Bellevue West's Nate Glantz, Omaha Skutt's Tyson Gordon, Grand Island's Caleb Francl, Omaha Burke's Xavier Watts, Grand Island's Broc Douglass, Bellevue West's Matt Thompson, Grand Island Central Catholic's Dietrick Stolz
Front row, from left: Sam Sims, Grand Island; Dietrick Stolz, Grand Island Central Catholic; James Burks, Omaha Burke; Dylan Sales, Omaha Burke; Shane Dailey, Bellevue West; Jarod Epperson, Omaha Skutt. Second row, from left: D.J. Gross, McCook; Garrett Snodgrass, York; Xavier Watts, Omaha Burke; Jevyon Ducker, Bellevue West; Kohl Herbolsheimer, Millard South; Alex Rodgers, Omaha Roncalli. Third row, from left: Joseph Krause, Seward; Ethan Piper, Norfolk Catholic; Nick Henrich, Omaha Burke; Garrett Nelson, Scottsbluff; Chris Hickman, Omaha Burke. Back row, from left: Zavier Betts, Bellevue West; Mehki Butler, Omaha North; Caden Johnson, Wahoo Neumann; Tyson Gordon, Omaha Skutt; Baylor Scheierman, Aurora; Noah Stafursky, York. Not pictured: Isaiah Alford, Lincoln High
Like the burr oaks at Mahoney State Park that were the backdrop for this photo, the 2017 All-Nebraska football team branched out with players from the Wyoming state line to the Missouri River.
The 2016 All-Nebraska football team "earned their wings" at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum.
Back row from left: York's Masry Mapieu, Bellevue West's Sylvo Johnson, Lincoln East's Chris Walker, Gretna's Patrick Arnold, Bellevue West's Tyler Ciurej, Omaha Burke's Cole Frahm, Wilber-Clatonia's Riley Homolka, Norfolk's Lane McCallum, Ashland-GW's Brett Kitrell, and Beatrice's Cam Jurgens.
Middle row from left: Kearney's Noah Urbanek, Bellevue West's Jaylin Bradley, Omaha North's Kendrick Parker, Omaha North's Milton Sargbah, Elkhorn South's Moses Bryant, Omaha Skutt's Christian Banker, and Creighton Prep's AJ Hubner.
Front row from left: Wahoo Neumann's Noah Vedral, Omaha North's Zion Williams, Bellevue West's Diego Galvan, McCook's Zach Schlager, Bellevue West's Kevin Ponec, Norris' Austin Schultz, and Millard North's Jack Begley.
The 2015 All-Nebraska football team gathered at Papillion-La Vista High School for the photo shoot.
The 2014 All-Nebraska football team posted on the steps of the Joslyn Art Museum. The cover read: "A Step Ahead: The 24 members of the All-Nebraska football team towered over foes."
Back rows, starting from left: Papillion-La Vista South’s Jeremy Kowalski, No. 75; Seward’s Adam Holtorf, No. 79; Papillion-La Vista South’s Ryan Earith; Kearney’s Brian Arp, No. 55; Elkhorn South’s Brett Stinson; Grand Island’s Kevin Cahoy, No. 12; Omaha Central’s Tre Sanders, No. 6; Omaha Central’s DaiShon Neal, No. 9; Grand Island’s Pierce Almond, No. 2; Blair’s Vance Janssen; Bellevue West’s CJ Johnson; Boone Central/Newman Grove’s Wyatt Mazour; Omaha Central’s Xavier Graham, No. 64; Creighton Prep’s Jeremiah Stovall; and Creighton Prep’s Jack McLeay, No. 54. Front rows, starting from left: Omaha North’s Cole Bixler, No. 34; Omaha North’s Michael Decker, No. 78; Omaha North’s Calvin Strong, No. 5; Omaha North’s Jason Martin; Grand Island Central Catholic’s Youhanna Ghaifan; Millard North’s Adrrell Taylor, No. 27; Omaha North’s Marquise Lewis, No. 1; McCook’s Bryce Lyons, No. 21; and Omaha North’s Markell Vaughn, No. 22.
In 2013, the All-Nebraska football and volleyball teams came together for a photo shoot, and the cover was designed to look like a Facebook page with the teams taking one big selfie.
The 2012 All-Nebraska football team made a splash in the shark tunnel of the Scott Aquarium at the Henry Doorly Zoo.
Standing, from left: Luke McNitt, Kearney; DJ Foster, Lincoln Southeast; Josh Banderas, Lincoln Southwest; Nick DeLuca, Millard North; Harrison Phillips, Millard West; Mike Milenkovich, Millard North; Bryce Sosnowski, Millard South; Nathan Bazata, Howells-Dodge; Casey Sayles, Omaha North.
Middle row: Christian LaCouture, Lincoln Southwest; Jordan Bellar, Norfolk Catholic; Clay Fisher Millard North; Isaac Aakre, Millard North; Matt Kraft, Millard South; Alec Ditoro, Papillion-La Vista; Jake Schlager, McCook; Lee Carhart, Creighton Prep; Freeman Coleman, Millard South.
Front row: Andy Bayne, Millard North; Trey Carr, Omaha Burke; Calvin Strong, Omaha North; Skyler Monaghan, Millard West; Devin Washington, Lincoln Southeast; RJ Urzendowski, Creighton Prep.
With the Omaha skyline in the background, the 2011 All-Nebraska football team was "Standing Tall" at Pioneer Courage Park not far from the Omaha World-Herald building.
Bottom Row (from left): Tay Bender, RB, Lincoln Southwest; Isaac Aakre, RB, Millard North; Landon Arnold, OL, Millard North; Andrew Coppa, DL, Omaha Burke; Trey Foster, DL, Lincoln Southeast; Bo Liekhus, DB, Bellevue West.
Middle Row (from left): Darian Barrientos-Jackson, DB, Omaha Central; James Anderson, OL, Omaha Burke; Andy Janovich, LB, Gretna; Drew Farlee, K, Norfolk Catholic; Mike Minter Jr., DB, Lincoln North Star; Sam Cotton, DL, Lincoln Southeast; Devin Washington, RB, Lincoln Southeast; Sam Foltz, DB, Grand Island; Jeremy Callahan, P, Lexington; Robbie Lafour, OL, Lincoln Southeast; Jake Schany, LB, Blair; Jordan Nelson, RB, Omaha Burke; Ryker Fyfe, QB, Grand Island.
Top Row (from left): Jordan Brichacek, OL, Howells; Zach Oliver, WR, Omaha Burke; Terry Grigsby, DB, Omaha North; Drew Ott, LB, Giltner; Mike Shoff, OL, Cambridge.
All-Nebraska football captains Jimmie Forsythe of Omaha Burke and Tyson Broekemeier of Aurora were the focus in 2010 during this shoot at Turner Park at Midtown Crossing.
The 2009 All-Nebraska football hopped aboard this old streetcar at the Durham Museum.
There was "nothing pedestrian" about the 2008 All-Nebraska football team, which posed in front of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
Back row, from left, Tyrone Sellers of McCook, Corey Serrano of North Platte, Nathan Zook of Grand Island, Eric Koehlmoos of Pierce, Tyler Daake of Norfolk Catholic, Tyler Niederklein of Millard West, Charles Viers of Millard West, Josh Kage of Papillion-LaóVista, Jake Herweyer of Millard West, Cole Pensick of Lincoln Northeast, Jordan Hale of Millard South, Andrew Rodriguez of Aurora, James Davis of Omaha North, Jon Lechner of Prep, Scott Criss of Omaha Creighton Prep and C.J. Zimmerer of Omaha Gross. Front row, Matt Berry of McCook, Braden Taylor of Grand Island, Vinny Molina of Kearney, Kohlman Adema-Schulte of Millard West, Bryant Giles of Omaha North, Michael Burrus of Papillion-LaóVista South, Ronald Coleman of North, Tyler Seals of Bellevue West and Greg Hardin of Bellevue West.
For the 2007 All-Nebraska football team, The World-Herald chose individual shots for the cover instead of the group photo, and the result was "Picture Perfect."
No challenge was too steep for the "Rock Solid" 2006 All-Nebraska football team, who posed in front of a climbing wall at Dick's Sporting Goods.
The 2005 All-Nebraska football team wore letterman jackets for the photo shoot instead of their jerseys.
Top, from left, Millard North's Corey Young, Lincoln Southwest's Ian Dike, Millard North's Adam Nelson, Bellevue West's Silas Fluellen, Omaha Central's D.J. Jones (back row), Millard North's Jeff Tarpinian, Kearney's Tony Green, Lincoln Southwest's Ben Martin, Bellevue West's Jeff Martin, Lincoln Southwest's Ollie Sloup, Papillion-LaVista's Kyle Dooley and McCook's Josh Cherry.
Bottom, from left, Omaha Benson's Anthony Williams, Kearney's Joey Rousseau, Lincoln Southwest's Andy Cotton, Omaha Burke's Ricky Henry, Omaha South's Philip Barrientos, Creighton Prep's Mark Waring, Omaha Burke's Alex Henery, Millard West's Brandon Pete, Omaha Burke's Travis Liechti, Millard North's Paul Homer, Omaha North's Aaron Terry and Millard West's Matt Leaders.
Nothing says football like rows of poinsettias. Those were the accents that went with this photo shoot for the 2004 All-Nebraska football team.