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CURRENT ARTICLE
11/09/2015 - From The Press Box: Football Season Ends Early, Aylward Retiring From Coaching and Former Waverly Coach Lawler Dies

 Like a flash in the pan, the 2015 high school football season in Lincoln was here and then gone in an instant.

A fast season full of questions left to be answered.  What happened to Lincoln Southeast?  How did Lincoln High, Lincoln Northeast and Lincoln North Star rise to become playoff contenders?  Will Lincoln East be back solid next year?  Why so many close calls for Lincoln Southwest?

Like a majority of you, I was truly puzzled of what came about of the season for the LPS schools.  I can never recall in my life of ever witnessing a football season, where the two best city teams to make the Class A playoffs were below .500.  

Southeast, for one, was a total surprise.  With enough experience from a year ago, I truly thought the Knights would come away with the city championship.  I suppose injuries and a tough schedule are likely factors.  There is experience back next year at LSE and the bar has been set for what they need to do to achieve.

Southwest saw their 12-year playoff streak snap, not making it to the post-season for the first time since their inaugural year in 2002 when they finished 0-9.  Mark King traditionally has good athletes that come through and make a big difference.  Can't count them out next year.

East may have finished 4-5, after winning the city title the last two years and qualified for the playoffs, but next year looks promising.  Experienced quarterbacks and other players at the line positions may make a difference.  Although, the running back spot will be a skill position that needs to be filled.

Northeast, finishing at 4-6 with the State Playoff appearance, will be challenged next year to see if they can continue what they started.  Big win over Millard South helped the Rockets to get a playoff appearance, but rough finishes to Grand Island in the regular season and Millard West in the playoffs were two setbacks that provided learning experiences.

North Star, also finishing at 4-6 with a playoff appearance, should have been a team that went 7-3 through the season.  The Navigators had some winnable games (losses to Omaha Central and Papillion-LaVista).  Finding a new quarterback and running back will be important during the off season.

And Lincoln High, the team with all of the tricks up their sleeve.  The Links proved a lot of people wrong about being the doormat in the city race.  A 4-5 record and narrowly missing the playoffs is a great accomplishment for Head Coach Mark Macke.  Lincoln High has a promising future.  I hear their freshman team was impressive.

Lincoln Pius X certainly rebounded from the triple overtime loss to Omaha Skutt on Oct. 2 and went on a four-game win streak into the Class B quarterfinal, before falling 17-0 in a rematch with Skutt.  Tim Aylward's team won a district title (their first since the 2004 state championship season) and proved to be pretty gritty running the football.  

In year two for head coach Tim Williams, Waverly seemed to be a highly favored playoff contender.  But losses to Norris, Bennington and Plattsmouth didn't help along the way.  Still, the Vikings made the playoffs for a second-straight year, only to fall to Omaha Skutt 50-3.  Dillon Ruelas, who may be one of the best quarterbacks in the state next year, will have another chance to lead Waverly back to a post-season appearance.

Norris, with 18 returning starters, seemed to not have the best of luck this football season.  Tough schedule, no doubt.  Big wins over playoff teams like Waverly and Beatrice were major highlights.  

Lincoln Christian and Lincoln Lutheran is always a great football game to watch.  Outside of the annual Spirit Sword game, you have two different teams who had their share of struggles.  

The Crusaders failed to reach the playoffs for the second straight year, after seven straight appearances.  Arizona State recruit Jared Bubak will take his game to the Pac 12 next season.  Meanwhile, the Warriors will continue to look for answers in rebuilding their program.

Parkview Christian, who finished with a 2-6 record, had lopsided wins over Hampton (62-8) and Lewiston (80-6).  The Patriots had tough opponents in Kenesaw, Falls City Sacred Heart and Osceola.

To all of our area and city teams, put this season behind and look ahead to next year.  Things look to be better.

 Rotellas Italian Bakery


AYLWARD RETIRING FROM COACHING POSITION

He's only been the second football coach in Lincoln Pius X's 60-year history.  Now Tim Aylward plans to hand over the reigns to someone else next year, as he steps down and focus full time on his duties as Pius X's athletic director.

In 31 seasons, Aylward compiled a 204-111 record for the Thunderbolts, along with 22 state playoff appearances and four state titles.  

Aylward took over the job from Vince Aldrich, who he played for in high school before attending college at Kearney State, now the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

Tradition is rich with the Pius X football program.  After being crowned "mythical" state champions in 1970 and 1974, Pius X won state titles under the playoff format in 1975 and 1978 with Aldrich.  It took almost 10 years before Aylward received his first state title in 1995, which started a run that Pius X had never seen before.  

Between 1995 and 1998, Pius X had a 48-4 record with three state titles ('95, '97 and '98).  Aylward's 2004 team also won the Class B title.

In my years of coordinating schedules to cover games, Tim Aylward is one of the best coaches/athletic directors I've dealt with.  Very accommodating toward the media.

No successor has been named at this time.

FORMER WAVERLY COACH LAWLER DIES

John Lawler, who coached Waverly to the 1980 Class B State Football Championship, passed away on Saturday, a day after turning 79.

Lawler, by many longtime fans and Viking alumni, was someone who was held in high regard on the field and in the classroom.  His teaching and coaching stops included Norfolk Catholic, Pender, Wahoo Neumann, and Cedar Bluffs before finishing out at Waverly.

After guiding Waverly back from a 2-7 season in 1979 to an 11-1 record and a Class B title in 1980, Lawler was named the Lincoln Journal Star Coach of The Year in 1981.  The famed wishbone offense was implemented at Waverly, which became a staple of the team for many years after Lawler's retirement.

Athletically, Lawler was all-state running back at Norfolk Sacred Heart (now Norfolk Catholic) before playing at Norfolk Junior College (Northeast Community College) and later at Doane College.  He also won the Midwest Golden Gloves boxing championship.

A memorial service will be held for John Lawler Nov. 12 from 1:30pm to 4:30pm at the Waverly Care Center, 11120 North 141st Street.

Our sincere condolences to the Lawler family and the Waverly community at this rough time.

A Facebook page has been started to share memories about Coach Lawler.  Click here .

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