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Defensive stops could be X-factor in C-1 final featuring two best offenses

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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.”​

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Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Email stu.pospisil@owh.com

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