As a basketball guy, I've developed the same excitement many Nebraskans endure about this time of the year.....the start of football season.
While my fellow Nebraskans thrive to gear up for the start of another college football season in Lincoln, my focus is primarily on high school football. And rightfully so.
Great players will be in the spotlight this season, while great teams may not be at the forefront like a year ago. What I mean is that we'll see great teams, but likely no undefeated ones.
Millard North, our Union Bank pre-season Class A No. 1, went on an undefeated run in 2012 to claim their second straight title. The Mustangs certainly have great potential to make another run, but in their way will be their "crosstown" rivals Millard South and Millard West. Plus, you can't rule out Omaha Creighton Prep, Omaha North, Lincoln Southeast, Omaha Burke and Omaha Westside.
Papillion-LaVista and Lincoln North Star are toward the end of the top ten that could be in the hunt for playoff contention, along with Kearney, Lincoln Southwest, Omaha Central and Grand Island.
The headliners this year may be the talent at some of these schools. Southeast features Nebraska recruits Luke Gifford and DJ Foster, while North Star had talented running back Austin Rose. In Omaha, it's Clay Fisher and Adrrell Taylor at Millard North; Skylar Monaghan and Stanford recruit Harrison Phillips at Millard West; Calvin Strong at Omaha North; Easton Stick and RJ Urzendowski at Prep; Trey Carr at Burke; and three-year starter Alec Ditoro at Papillion-LaVista.
If you go watch a game any time this season, keep an eye on these players. Arguably, this could be a good crop of college prospects from Nebraska in quite some time.
Make sure to check our Broadcast Schedule page for our coverage of high school football this season. It begins Thursday night, August 29 with Grand Island against Lincoln Northeast at Seacrest Field. The Rockets will be guided by first year head coach Bump Christensen, who made the move across town after spending the last few years as an assistant at Lincoln High. Northeast's work ethic may be the difference maker and Mikiah Slade could be tough to handle. Grand Island's experience may prove to be the key ingredient for the Islanders to prevail.
The biggest game to start the season, though, is at Buell Stadium in Omaha with Millard North vs. Millard South. In Lincoln, North Star and Southwest tangle at Seacrest Friday night, with both teams already established as legitimate contenders in football each year. The biggest game in Lincoln this season will be the Sept. 27 showdown between Southwest and Southeast. The Silver Hawks were defeated by then defending state champ Southeast 21-14 before a crowd of 6,500 at Seacrest.
If you want to enjoy a good atmosphere of high school football, check out that game. The Southwest/Southeast rivalry has been the marquee game in Lincoln the past three seasons. Attendance for some of those games has been as high as 8,500.
East grad Stivrins among those back for anniversaryAlex Stivrins (Courtesy of NBA)
On Saturday, the 1993 Continental Basketball Association champion Omaha Racers reunited to celebrate the 20th
anniversary of capturing the league title. Among the former players that came back to Omaha to celebrate was former Lincoln East star Alex Stivrins.
The 6-8 left-hander, who played his college basketball at Creighton and Colorado, was a key member of the Racers’ run to the championship. Stivrins returned to the United States for the 1992-93 season after signing a contract with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.
While he starred for several European pro league teams, Stivrins became an NBA journeyman that season, playing for three other teams (Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers) with pit stops in Omaha, where he gained the majority of his playing time. It was the run through the CBA playoffs that Stivrins shined, helping the Racers to wins over Rapid City in the semifinals and Grand Rapids in the championship series.
Stivrins is now living in the Phoenix area, working in financial planning and investments. His son, Lucas, signed a letter of intent to play college basketball at the University of Nevada after spending last season at Pratt Community College in Kansas playing for head coach and former East High basketball standout Jesse Shaw.
Stivrins is among several “local” hoopsters that wore an Omaha uniform. His rival in high school, Dean Thompson, was an outstanding point guard for the Racers early in franchise history (the team was in Omaha from 1989-97). Thompson’s school, Omaha Westside, beat Stivrins’ East ball club 63-55 in the 1980 Class A boys state basketball championship. Thompson, who starred at UNO, scored 28 points outdueling Stivrins, who scored 24 in the championship.
Ron Kellogg, Jr., former Omaha Northwest and University of Kansas star, was a Racer. Former Omaha South and Kansas star Cedric Hunter, former Westside and Hastings College standout Bart Kofoed was on the 1993 team after traveling around the NBA with the likes of Boston and Utah.
The celebration was held at the Ralston Arena, where former Racer players put on a clinic for kids and signed autographs for fans.
***REMINDERS: From The Press Box will be a weekly feature on LincolnPrepSports.com through the end of the spring sports season. Also, our weekly ratings for football and basketball will run through mid-March.