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Pospisil: Class B title comes down to two teams that may not be there long
COMMENTARY

Pospisil: Class B title comes down to two teams that may not be there long

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

LINCOLN — Bennington’s stay in Class B may last two more years. The growing suburban Omaha district probably can’t stay out of Class A before a second high school is spun off.

Aurora is on the other end of the Class B size spectrum. The Interstate 80 school district appears headed back to Class C-1 next year as its enrollment declines.

So it’s remarkable that the Huskies are in their second championship game in as many seasons and, counting their C-1 title year in 2018, their third final in four years. It’s the seniors’ 14th playoff game out of a maximum 16. They have the advantage in experience over the Badgers, whose best previous run in the Class B playoffs had been the quarterfinals the past two years.

But regardless of the outcome of Monday’s 7:15 p.m. final at Memorial Stadium, Bennington is going to replace Aurora in the upper echelon of Class B — a short list that includes Omaha Skutt and Elkhorn as perennial contenders.

It’s the teams’ third meeting in 14 months. Bennington won 31-18 at home last year and 55-44 at Aurora on Sept. 3. In the most recent tussle, Aurora stayed in the game by returning a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns.

But behind an all-senior offensive line that’s on the short list of the best in the state regardless of class, Bennington’s Dylan Mostek ran for 353 yards and the second of his three five-touchdown games on 39 carries.

Mostek, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior, is Class B’s single-season record-holder for rushing yards, with 2,872. He needs 137 to top the state record of 3,008 by Omaha North’s Calvin Strong in 2013. Mostek’s 40 touchdowns are another Class B mark.

Did we mention Bennington junior Trey Bird is a 2,000-yard passer? Or that Cayden Bluhm needs 74 receiving yards to reach 1,000 this season?

Up front for the Badgers are a pair of 6-4 tackles, 230-pound Carter Lerch and 260-pound Jameson Krayneski; 6-5, 230-pound center Cody Harris; 6-2, 270-pound guard Jacob Stier; and scrappy 170-pound guard Nathan Schaefer. Those five are going to be what Aurora’s returning All-Nebraska lineman Gage Griffith and the rest of its 3-4 defense must contend with.

“They just make it easy to go up the middle or go outside,” Mostek said at midseason. “Anywhere I go, I just know they always have my back and they’re always going to help me get those extra few yards.”

Bennington’s defense has become championship-caliber. It’s allowing an average of 16.3 points a game, eight better than a year ago. Aurora is the only team to score four touchdowns against the Badgers’ first unit.

Aurora’s feel-good story is junior running back Carlos Collazo. He had a season-ending injury in week five last year only to come back with 1,749 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Fellow junior Drew Knust, who earned the start at quarterback in the preseason, has thrown for 1,327 yards and 15 touchdowns. Carsen Staehr is his best possession receiver.

Aurora coach Kyle Peterson told the Grand Island Independent that he would like to put the Badgers under stress in the rematch, maybe play keep away.

Since the September game, Peterson said, “We’re different. They’re different — probably not in as many ways as us. But we know what the physical matchup is like. We know what the line of scrimmage potentially looks like. We know what the speed and matchups on the edge look like. But they do, too.”

CLASS B final: No. 1 Bennington vs. No. 3 Aurora

When, Where: 7:15 p.m. Monday, Memorial Stadium

TV, radio: NPM (NET); 97.3 (Aurora), 93.7 (Lincoln)

When Bennington (12-0) has the ball: Aurora will have to choose — load up against nation No. 9 rusher Dylan Mostek, who’s 137 yards from the all-class state rushing record of 3,008 or defend the passing attack triggered by 2,000-yard passer Trey Bird, who threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns when the Badgers won 55-44 in Aurora on Sept. 3. Britton Kemling is the Huskies’ tackle leader with 98, followed by Brekyn Papineau with 70.

When Aurora (10-2) has the ball: Junior Carlos Collazo, who missed the last half of 2020 while hurt, came back as a junior to rush for 1,769 yards and 26 touchdowns. Mack Owens has close to 600 yards and eight scores. Junior Drew Knust has thrown for 1,327 yards and 15 touchdowns, with Carsen Staehr topping the receivers with 668 yards and four TDs on 46 catches. Austin Holtz, with 98 tackles and five picks, and Luke MacDonald, with 97 tackles, lead the Badger defense.

Stu’s pick: Aurora has won 11 straight since starting with losses to Class A North Platte and Bennington to return to the final for the second straight year and three of the past four (it won C-1 in 2018). Bennington is in the stadium for the first time, having won C-1 in 1989 when finals were at home sites. The Badger defense has greatly improved since its first meeting with Aurora, which will be the difference in the rematch.


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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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