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Eight Man-2 preview: Kenesaw, Sandhills/Thedford will finally square off to be No. 1

Eight Man-2 preview: Kenesaw, Sandhills/Thedford will finally square off to be No. 1

The title games have been set for 2021 Nebraska high school football.

Kenesaw and Sandhills/Thedford have topped the ratings since the preseason.

The Eight Man-2 state final in Memorial Stadium will tell the correct order of the undefeated teams.

No. 1 Kenesaw has a slew of four-year players who have gotten the Blue Devils to the school’s first title game since 1990. No. 2 Sandhills/Thedford was in last year’s final, losing to Bruning-Davenport/Shickley. Kenesaw beat that team in the semifinal to get to the 2:45 p.m. game Monday in Lincoln.

Kenesaw coach Craig Schnitzler said Sandhills/Thedford does similar things with its run-first offense as the Blue Devils, “but they do it with three and we do it with two.”

Sandhills/Thedford has seniors Trae Hickman (1,209 yards) and Dane Pokorny (1,203) 6 yards apart. Pokorny has the better per-carry average of 10 yards. Quarterback Reece Zutavern has run for 632 yards and passed for 526.

Last year, when Hickman got in six games before tearing an ACL, Pokorny was a 2,000-yard rusher. Hickman’s return gives the Knights a return specialist with 12 career runback touchdowns while having 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a sophomore and senior.

“It’s been great having Trae back,” Knights coach Josh Deines said. “He has elite speed, especially at our level. He’s just an explosive kid in the backfield.

“Dane is a great running back, he really is, and that’s why he’s had a lot of Division I schools look at him for football. As good as he is a running back, he’s a great blocker and does a great job of opening up holes for Trae and one of Trae’s blessings is he doesn’t need a lot of room to get up to full speed like I’d say a lot of other kids do.”

Kenesaw’s running attack starts with quarterback Tyson Denkert, who’s had back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons, 6,129 yards over four years and more than 8,000 yards including his passing totals. He’s scored 366 points this season and 868 in his career.

Running back Trey Kennedy is 75 yards away from 1,000 and has scored 19 times.

“They’re both great ball carriers and they complement each other extremely well,” Schnitzler said. “Even though Tyson gets the majority of the carries. Trey Kennedy is a power runner and he’ll make you pay trying to tackle him. And then as games go, things seem to open up for him and he gets rolling.”

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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

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