World-Herald staff writer Stu Pospisil has compiled everything you need to know about the Eight Man-1 and Eight Man-2 football state championships.
* * *
No. 2 Howells-Dodge (12-0) vs. No. 3 Cross County (11-1)
When, where: 10:15 a.m. Monday, Memorial Stadium
TV, radio: NPM (NET); 107.9, West Point; 93.5, Columbus; 94.7, Norfolk; 104.9/1370, York
When Howells-Dodge has the ball: The Jaguars run 90% of the time. No surprise. Levi Belina has scored on 33 of his 200 carries and has 1,884 yards. Lane Belina is next with 539 and Lance Brester, who spelled Levi in the semifinals against Burwell, 475. Cory Hollinger has 70 solo tackles for Cross County, with Damon Mickey making 60 solos, sophomore Alex Noyd 54 and Shayden Lundstrom 46 while getting three pickoffs.
When Cross County has the ball: Despite missing three games, including the Cougars’ 40-38 loss at Howells-Dodge, senior Carter Seim has rushed for 1,874 yards and 37 touchdowns. He’s at 5,402 for his career. Haiden Hild has 1,263 yards as the Cougars run 88% of the time. Junior linebacker Jestin Bayer leads Howells-Dodge with 116 tackles. Levi Belina has 68 and Brester 66. Blake Sindelar has three interceptions.
Road to Lincoln: Howells-Dodge beat Elmwood-Murdock 56-32, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge 54-20, defending champion and No. 6 Dundy County-Stratton 44-18 and No. 1 Burwell 56-18. Cross County beat Clarkson/Leigh 45-12, No. 7 Weeping Water 67-36, No. 4 Nebraska City Lourdes 58-51 and No. 9 Hitchcock County 56-20.
Stu’s pick: In their present arrangements, both schools are in the finals for the first time. But Howells-Dodge coach Mike Speirs was 9-1 in Memorial Stadium in title games with Howells. Without Seim, the Cougars lost to Howells-Dodge by 2 so the belief is his presence will spell the difference in a payback win for Cross County.
No. 1 Kenesaw (12-0) vs. No. 2 Sandhills/Thedford (12-0)
When, where: 2:45 p.m. Monday, Memorial Stadium
TV, radio: NPM (NET); 94.5, Hastings; 92.3, Sargent; 1280/95.3, Broken Bow
When Kenesaw has the ball: Everything starts with third-year starting quarterback Tyson Denkert, who has more than 8,100 yards in his career. He’s a two-time 2,000-yard rusher who’s thrown for 816 yards this season. Trey Kennedy has 925 yards rushing. Sandhills/Thedford’s top three in tackles are Drew McIntosh with 94, Reece Zutavern with 90 and Dane Pokorny with 88. The Knights have 40 sacks, led by McIntosh with 11, and 24 fumble recoveries.
When Sandhills/Thedford has the ball: Pokorny (1,203 yards) and Trae Hickman (1,209) are the Knights’ thunder and lightning out of the backfield. Zutavern, the quarterback, has 632 on only 64 carries. Kenesaw has 28 takeaways, with Denkert picking off six passes and Kennedy having five fumble recoveries. Nick Kuehn is the Blue Devils’ tackle leader with 121. Sean Duffy has 102 and Eli Jensen 87.
Road to Lincoln: Kenesaw beat Medicine Valley 56-0, No. 3 Falls City Sacred Heart 62-56, No. 4 Humphrey St. Francis 70-40 and defending champion and No. 7 BDS 36-6. Sandhills/Thedford beat Lawrence-Nelson 60-20, Mead 62-6, No. 5 Osceola 46-14 and No. 10 Elgin/Pope John 52-8.
Stu’s pick: Both teams are to Memorial Stadium for the first time. Sandhills/Thedford was in last year’s final against BDS, but that game was in Shickley. Kenesaw was dealt a playoff bracket with a mine field each round. Either that’s worn on them or steeled them for success in the final. I think it’s the latter in a game that could come down to the final possession.