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CURRENT ARTICLE
08/12/2004 - 2004 Lincoln Prep Sports Football Preview
Lincoln Southeast Knights
2003 Record: 8-2, state playoff qualifier
Head Coach: Chuck Mizerski

The Lowdown...
            

All the critics think the demise of the Southeast football dynasty is over, but try to tell that to the Black and Gold.  The Knights are still the top dog in the city and they could be once again.  A rare first round exit in which Millard South sent the Knights packing in 2003, the 2004 season looks more promosing.  The offensive line will be the bread and butter of this football team, led by Tyler Peterson at 6-5, 290.  Zach Bloebaum and Larry Birks will help anchor down the line with Peterson, which gives Southeast a solid trio up front.  Running back Trent Neeman is back after averaging over 100 yards a contest last year.  Jim Dawson takes over at quarterback for the departed Zac Rabe.  Dawson will have three targets at receiver in Ryan Heavican, James Hoehne and Trent Price.  Those three maybe the best core of receivers in Class A.  The defense will be boosted by Cole Meyer, a senior linebacker and Tom Gift, a sophomore.  These Knights have something to prove to the rest of the city.  That they are still #1.

The Good...
            

Tradition and the head coach.  Southeast is the best dynasty going in high school football in Nebraska and they have the best coach in Mizerski.  Mizerski has found a way to win year in and year out.  When a team sees Southeast on the schedule, most teams freeze.  Plus, the only Omaha metro school the Knights face is Creighton Prep.

The Bad...
            

Depth could be a concern for the Knights.  Young players will be expected to contribute right away and that's not exactly what you want to do to a young player when you have to face Creighton Prep to start the season.  An unproven quarterback in Dawson could give Mizerski headaches early on in the season.

Player to watch...
            

Trent Neeman will be the centerpiece of the Southeast offense.  His 113 yards a game last year will improve with more carries.  His speed and acceleration between the tackles will make him a tough back to contain.  As long as he is healthy, he has the ability to rush for 1,000 yards and put points up in a hurry.

LincolnPrepSports.com predicts...
            

Lincoln Southeast will be the city champs once again.  Mizerski will find ways to win, pretty or ugly.  The Knights however will be tested throughout the year, with games against Lincoln Northeast and upstart Lincoln Southwest, its new rival.  With Peterson leading the way and Neeman carrying the ball, the Knights will continue to do what they've done for years.  Dominate.  With eights games in Lincoln this year, its only road contest is at Columbus.  RECORD: 7-2

2004 Schedule
9-02      Omaha Creighton Prep (Seacrest Field)         7pm       telecast
9-10      at Lincoln Northeast (Seacrest Field)             8pm     
9-17      North Platte (Seacrest Field)                    4:30pm
9-24      Lincoln East (Seacrest Field)                   7pm
10-1      at Lincoln High (Seacrest Field)                8pm
10-8      at Columbus                                 6:30pm
10-15     Fremont (Seacrest Field)                         4:30pm
10-22     at Lincoln Southwest (Seacrest Field)           8pm
10-28     Kearney (Seacrest Field)                         4:30pm

Lincoln High Links
2003 Record: 1-8
Head Coach: John Farrand

The Lowdown...
            

The Links have no where to go but up in 2004 after going 1-8 a year ago.  Coach John Farrand though can sense his Links will be competitive this fall, especially on the defensive side of the ball led by senior cornerback Rick Massa, who led Class A with 10 interceptions.  Massa is one of the top cornerbacks in the state and he showed why in 2003.  Linebacker Yusuf Vinson, who made a name for himself in basketball, is widely considered one of the better linebackers in Class A.  At 6-3, 210, his speed and quickness will give ball carriers problems all fall long.  The defensive front includes a pair of seniors, defensive end Darren Reinhart and tackle Cody Wolfe.  A solid nucleus on defense will keep the Links in many ball games, but the offense will have to produce points.  Farrand will give the quarterbacking duties to senior Derec Schmidgall, who should give the Links some leadership on offense.  The Links' offense maybe the most underrated in the city.

The Good...
            

Farrand will have his team ready to play everytime it hits the field.  The Links can match-up with anybody in the state, with the speed they put on the field.  With Massa and Vinson on the defensive side of the ball, the Links can create turnovers at anytime. 

The Bad...
            

With all that speed at the skilled positions, can they find five guys upfront to protect Schmidgall?  The offense was non-existence in 2003 and if that carries over to this year, the Links could find themselves with not too many kind Friday nights for nine weeks.  Plus, road contests at Bellevue East, Omaha North and Kearney could be difficult for an offense that hasn't had much success.

Player to watch...
            

Massa and Vinson are no brainers, but it will be Schmidgall early on, to see how he leads the Links offense.  As long as he has success early on, he should become one of the better leaders in the state.  He will get tested by some very fast defenses early on in the year, especially when they face Bellevue East, who features Robert Rands.

LincolnPrepSports.com predicts...
            

It could be a tough year for the Links, but with two city games to start the year, you never know.  Lincoln Northeast and Lincoln North Star, the two biggest rivalries the Links have, should fire them up.  But a district loaded with Lincoln Southwest, Lincoln Southeast and Norfolk will be tough for the Links to gain a playoff berth.  If the Links can get a cohesive offensive line and leadership from it's seniors, only time will tell how far this team can go.  RECORD:  2-7

2004 Schedule
9-03      Lincoln Northeast (Seacrest Field)           8pm       telecast
9-10      Lincoln North Star
9-17      at Bellevue East
9-24      at Omaha North
10-1      Lincoln Southeast
10-7      Fremont
10-15     at Lincoln Southwest
10-22     at Kearney
10-28     Columbus


Lincoln North Star Navigators
2003 Record: 1-8
Head Coach:  Mark Waller

The Lowdown...
            

Just in its second year of existence, the Navigators appear to have one goal in mind in 2004:  Improve.  Coach Mark Waller's squad won it's opener in 2003 over the other newcomer in 2003 Papillion-LaVista South, but found the growing pains real quickly in Class A, losing its remaining games.  However, there is reason to be optimistic over in Northwest Lincoln.  A good place to start is at wide receiver in junior Tyler Bullock.  The 6-1, 170lb junior is as good of athlete the city has to offer and gives Waller a big play guy.  Leadership will be key for this second year program and they'll look up to Derek Hoefling, a defensive end, and fullback Kyle Selin.  The junior class is loaded.  Along with Bullock, Jeremy Bauer started in the secondary as a sophomore, J.J. Robinson anchors the offensive line with his 250lb frame, and Jordan Shoecraft, the son of former Husker basketball standout Jerry Shoecraft, was a starting defensive end as a sophomore.  Waller also gets a boost in his offense with Lincoln High transfer Alex Hall, a running back.  The Gators must however find a quarterback to replace the graduated Sam Zajicek.

The Good...
            

There is nothing up an upside to this football team.  With a number of young kids playing up, North Star could be a team to contend with in a couple years.  With a number of skilled athletes on the field, North Star could give some teams problems.  If the younger players play like seniors early on, the Gators could play spoiler on someone come October.

The Bad...
            

It's their second year.  They did get their first win in school history in the first week of the year, but found themselves buried the rest of the way.  Besides Robinson, the offensive line is untested and has never played together, which won't bode for the Gators offense. 

Player to watch...
            

Keep an eye on sophomore Ruan Paluta.  Paluta started everygame as a freshman, and that can only but help an inexperienced defense.  Paluta's 220lb body has the ability to make plays and cause nightmares for opposing coaches. 

LincolnPrepSports.com predicts...
            

That the Gators will be more competitive in 2004.  It might take awhile for Waller to get his program to the point where there making playoff runs everyear, but this school will produce the kind of athletes where Waller can do that.  We think the Gators will have as much team speed as anybody in Lancaster County.  If the offensive line can prove itself and the Gators can find themselves a signal caller, beware of this bunch.  RECORD: 3-6

2004 Schedule
9-02      at Millard South (Buell Stadium)        7pm
9-10      at Lincoln High (Seacrest Field)         4:30pm
9-17      Lincoln Southwest (Seacrest Field)         8pm
9-24      at Papillion-LaVista South                 7pm
9-30      at Lincoln East (Seacrest Field)         7pm
10-8      North Platte (Beechner Field)            7pm
10-14    Grand Island (Seacrest Field)            7pm
10-22     at Lincoln Northeast (Seacrest Field)      4:30pm
10-28     Norfolk (Seacrest Field)               8pm

Lincoln Northeast Rockets
2003 record: 5-4
Head Coach:  Dave Svehla

The Lowdown...
            

The Rockets were on the outside looking in at the end of the 2003 season, missing the playoffs due to wild card points.  But in 2004, don't expect this group to need wild card points to get into the state playoffs.  Coach Dave Svehla returns the his three-year starting quarterback in senior Tyler Stephenson, which is a good start.  Stephenson is a dual threat quarterback who has the ability to run and pass, which could give opposing defenses fits.  His favorite target, junior Jon Rust, is a big wide receiver, who led the Rockets in receiving as a sophomore in his first year of organized football.  Jeremy Peters gives Stephenson another threat at receiver, so expect the Rockets to air it out a bit.  The offensive line returns two starters, senior Adam Hill and junior Jon Bradley. 

The Good...
            

Northeast has experience upfront and at quarterack with Stephenson.  It showed a year how close this team could of been to being a 7 win team.  With that experienced gained, the Rockets should be just fine in crunch time.

The Bad...
            

With all the great running backs that have gone through Northeast, which will be the next one?  Orlando Lang graduated, but can the Rockets fill the void in their power-set offense?  If Stephenson has to shoulder all the carries, teams will key in on # 7. 

Player to watch...
            

Kicker Juan Hernandez.  Hernandez kicked a Class A best 11 field goals in 2003 and that gives Northeast an edge over most of the field in Class A.  Special teams won't be a concern for Svehla who has a proven kicker.

LincolnPrepSports.com predicts...
            

Northeast should be a playoff team.  With a district consisting of North Platte, Lincoln East, and a much improved Lincoln North Star in it, the Rockets will be battled tested and could make a run deep into November.  Stephenson is the heart and soul of this football team.  As he goes, Northeast goes.  A week one showdown with long time rival Lincoln High will gauge where the Rockets stand early on in the year.  RECORD: 6-3

2004 Schedule
9-03      at Lincoln High (Seacrest Field)         8pm       telecast  
9-10      Lincoln Southeast (Seacrest Field)          8pm
9-17      at Omaha Benson                       7pm
9-24      Fremont (Beechner Field)             7pm
10-1      Norfolk (Beechner Field)               7pm
10-8      at Lincoln East (Seacrest Field)         7pm
10-15    at North Platte                        7pm
10-22     Lincoln North Star (Seacrest Field)        4:30pm 
10-28     at Grand Island                      7pm                   

Lincoln East Spartans
2003 Record: 7-3, state playoff qualifier
Head Coach:  John Gingery

The Lowdown...
            

Spartan football faithful embarked a superb 2003 season and the blue and white are looking to improve.  Their may not be a better football player in the city than senior linebacker Brent Gritton, who already has had the likes of Alabama knocking on his door.  Gritton is a great cornerstone for coach John Gingery to build off of.  The 6-2, 225 pound bruiser has the ability to make plays at anytime, anywhere.  His 101 solo tackles a year ago and state leading 249 points in tackles makes Gritton known on every head coaches scouting report.  The defense will be carrying the load for the Spartans, with defensive ends Mike Palm and Jeff Wegner back.  The secondary returns cornerback Trey Ottley, and safeties Judd Stutzman and Jim Ebke.  All three play both ways, with Ebke contending to lead the Spartan offense at quarterback.  It will be a two way race during fall drills with senior Terrence Maahs.  With the junior varsity and sophomore teams only losing one game apiece last year, Gingery will have depth and can rush people in and out.

The Good...
            

Gingery has the best player in the city of Lincoln in Gritton.  With momentum carrying over from last year's 7-3 squad, the Spartans know they are amongst the best in Class A.  Recently known for their basketball, football is back on the map on 70th & A.

The Bad...
            

The schedule makers didn't do any favors for the Spartans.  Road games early on with Lincoln Southwest, defending Class A state champion Millard North, and Lincoln Southeast will not be easy.  All three qualified for the playoffs a year ago, and late season district road games at Norfolk and North Platte could leave a bad taste in the eyes of the Spartans.  Basketball season might not get here soon enough if things go bad early on.

Player to watch...
            

Sophomore quarterback/defensive back Jim Ebke.  He is a great all-around athlete, traveling with the Nebraska Bison All-Stars this summer in basketball.  He was right into the mix on the varsity as a freshman and should only get better as the year goes on.  Don't be surprised to see him taking snaps early on in the year.

LincolnPrepSports.com predicts...
            

Not another 7-3 campaign.  The schedule in non-district play may be the toughest in Class A.  But with the presence of Gritton on defense, teams will avoid going his direction.  If the defense can keep the Spartans in the game, East should be very competitve.  Don't expect an abundence of points to be scored by this offense.  Their first two games against Lincoln Southwest and Bellevue West will test that secondary, as both teams ranked in the top 10 in passing in 2003.  RECORD:  4-5

2004 Schedule
9-03      at Lincoln Southwest
9-09      Bellevue West
9-16      at Millard North
9-24      at Lincoln Southeast
9-30      Lincoln North Star
10-8      Lincoln Northeast (Seacrest Field)
10-14     at Norfolk
10-21     Grand Island
10-28     at North Platte


Lincoln Southwest Silver Hawks
2003 Record: 5-5, state playoff qualifier
Head Coach: Mark King

The Lowdown...
            

From 0-9 in 2002, to 5-5 and a state playoff appearence in 2003, the boys in southwest Lincoln are ready to soar even higher in 2004.  Coach Mark King should have one of the better defense in class A, returning eight starters from last year's squad.  Junior defensive end Ben Martin is highly regarded as one of the top juniors in the state.  His counter part, Ian Dike, a junior, is a talented tight end as well as a defensive end.  Both started everygame in 2003.  Defensive tackle Cory Hilgenkamp gives the Hawks a proven run stopper.  Junior linebacker Chris Anderson was second in tackles for the Hawks last fall, and Reed Knoll returns at linebacker as well.  Free Safety Matt Pfeifer started in 2003 for King's defense, giving the Hawks an experienced defense heading into fall camp, which it lacked from its previous two seasons.  King will have to find replacements at several position areas, including quarterback, which lost Clay Peterson to graduation, and the Hawks leading rusher in Andrew Sasek.  Nick Cammack, who led the Hawks in receiving, also is gone.  The quarterback race will be a tight one throughout two-a-days and up till the season opener.  Finding a running back will be objective number one for King, who's coached some great ones in the past. 

The Good...
            

You have to like the experience coming back, especially the juniors.  This core of players got a taste of what playoff football was about and with the rigerous off-season program King runs, these guys will be ready to go.  The defense is probably the best the city has to offer, led by Martin and Anderson. 

The Bad...
            

Who will lead the Hawk offense?  That will be the question King must answer.  Junior Blake Bolles and sophomore Austin Cassidy will compete for the starting job.  Also, a guy named Steinkuhler, the teams leading tackler in 2003, is gone. 

Player to watch...
            

Cassidy transferred in from College Station, TX, where his dad worked as director of football operations (now at Nebraska), and could give a lift to the Silver Hawk offense at quarterback.  He was a starter as a freshman for his 4A high school team, which could slove all of King's problems on offense.  Don't be surprised to see him under center in the season opener with Lincoln East.  At 6-2, 185, he has the tools to be a Division I football talent.

LincolnPrepSports.com predicts...
            

The Hawks will have a breakout year and put themselves on the map as a Class A power in football.  The defense is as good as anybodys in the state and the fact the schedule is in their favor, we like their chances in making a run deep into the playoffs.  Coach King has done a tremendous job in building his program and it will only continue to get better.  With only one metro school on the schedule, the Hawks will be a plus .500 ball club.  RECORD:  6-3

2004 Schedule
9-03      Lincoln East (Seacrest Field)            4:30pm
9-09      Papillion-LaVista South (Seacrest Field)  8pm
9-17      at Lincoln North Star (Seacrest Field)      8pm
9-24      at Grand Island                      7pm
10-1      Columbus (Seacrest Field)                4:30pm
10-8      at Kearney                             7pm
10-15     Lincoln High (Seacrest Field)         8pm
10-22     Lincoln Southeast (Seacrest Field)         8pm
10-28     at Fremont                            7pm


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