It was as if Lincoln area high school football did a complete 180-degree flip in one year.
Last year, you had two 4-5 teams (Northeast and North Star) make the Class A football playoff and a 7-4 Pius X team in the field of 16 in Class B. This year, six Lincoln Metro teams (East, Southeast, Lincoln High, Pius X, Southwest in Class A and Norris in Class B) have reached the post season.
Quite a contrast.
Still, the gold standard in Class A is Omaha North and while it's their postseason to lose the Lincoln teams will continue improving.
The matchup in the Class A first round on Friday with East and Southeast, I think, will be the marquee game. The Spartans are rolling and the Knights are coming off a huge 27-20 win at Grand Island to secure a home game at Seacrest.
Lincoln High will be challenged again. The Links go to No. 2 Bellevue West, in hopes of pulling off what may be the impossible, an upset over the talented Thunderbirds.
Regardless, this is a stepping stone for a Lincoln High program that's been in constant rebuilding mode since 2004. If nothing goes right, it's a building block for next year. You can join John Harris and I for the LHS/Bellevue West game Friday at 6:50pm.
Boy, Pius X got in by the skin of their teeth. The Thunderbolts didn't look as if they had enough wins in district play to capture a spot in the post season.
Their five straight wins to open the season paid off for Pius X, giving first year head coach Ryan Kearney a trip to State. But they will have a first round matchup at Omaha Burke, who's coming off a 45-41 loss to Bellevue West.
Lincoln Southwest was the last team to clinch a playoff spot, with a 42-35 win over North Star. Unfortunately, the Silver Hawks play top-seed North on Friday.
Perhaps the best first round matchup in Class B will be 11-seed Norris against sixth-seed Elkhorn. Two teams at 7-2 with great talent shall make for a great playoff game Friday afternoon.
Former Lincoln Southwest baseball coach Doug Kaltenberger (Courtesy of Joe Bechtle)
COACH "K", THANK YOU FROM ME AND YOUR FORMER STUDENTS/ATHLETES
We found out on Tuesday that former Lincoln Southwest baseball coach Doug Kaltenberger lost his battle with leukemia. He was 57.
I had the great fortune of having Kaltenberger as a teacher and coach at Northeast High School. During my four years on the varsity basketball team, I swung from JV to varsity my sophomore year. Kaltenberger was Northeast's JV basketball coach for 13 seasons. He was also my health teacher.
Like many former students and athletes this past week, we've shared our deepest sympathies toward Coach "K" and his family. He had a great knack of connecting with kids in the classroom and on the court. Kaltenberger did that in baseball, as an assistant and three-year head coach at Northeast and 12 seasons at Southwest.
My father, Jerry, played fast pitch softball with and for Kaltenberger's dad, Stan, during the 1970s out at Ballard Field in Lincoln. Doug, as a young boy and teen, would be the bat boy.
Later in life, Doug Kaltenberger went out of his way to help kids with fundamentals in both sports and never sought the spotlight when it came to the success he had at both schools.
After Southwest had a great run into the Class A State Baseball Tournament in 2015, only to fall one game short of advancing to the championship game, I felt he needed to be recognized. By that point, he had been coaching and finished up his treatments.
After retiring from coaching and back battling the dreaded "c" word, my sports staff at KFOR Radio decided to honor Kaltenberger as one of our four recipients of the Ralph Beechner Coach of The Year award from the Sportscasters Club.
I remember calling Coach "K" on the phone, while he was in the hospital last spring, telling him he has been picked to win that award. Needless to say, he was speechless, humbled and thankful.
Unfortunately, he couldn't attend the April 27th banquet because of his health, but his wife, Susan, and son, David, were there and Southwest athletic director Mark Armstrong accepted and spoke on his behalf. Still, it was emotional and impacting at the same time.
Who would have thought that a Southeast High School alum would have such a great impact on kids at Northeast and Southwest in 31 years? Kaltenberger was that person.
Coach "K" played for two hall of fame coaches at Southeast, Wally McNaught (basketball) and Charlie Gordon (baseball). He was a pitcher on Southeast's 1977 state championship baseball team, later took his talents to Nebraska-Kearney.
Kaltenberger landed at Northeast in the fall of 1985. He coached the sophomore boys basketball team under the legendary Ed Johnson's coaching staff.
When Rick Collura was hired at Northeast to succeed Johnson after the 1985-86 season, Kaltenberger moved up to be the JV coach.
Collura, who I played for in all four years at LNE, considered Kaltenberger the "nuts and bolts" to the Rockets' success between 1987 and 1998.
He's right. Coach "K" helped prepare the kids for the varsity level and did an outstanding job.
Collura is also right about another element of Kaltenberger. "He's a great family man that we all aspired to be," Collura told me in a phone interview on Thursday.
I feel privileged to have played for a group of coaches at Northeast that knew the pathway to create success. From Coach Collura and assistants Rex Mercer to Dan Noble (now the head boys coach at Lincoln High), who was a volunteer at the time, Northeast saw its greatest success on the basketball court over a four-year period. And yet, Kaltenberger was there, too. The "nuts and bolts" role he played was very pivotal.
Monday morning's 10am funeral at St. Peter Catholic Church will be full of people who played for him, sat through his health classes and listened to him lecture or went up in front of his classes as examples during the "birds and bees" discussion.
People who worked with him and those who loved him dearly, especially Susan, David and daughters Jessica and Megan will be here, too.
I'm grateful to have known Doug Kaltenberger. He was great to work with on a professional level, by broadcasting Southwest baseball games on the web. Always had the best lineup card he sent up to the press box at Sherman Field. Name pronunciations were always a welcome treat from him.
A lot has changed in society in the 20-plus years I've been out of high school and back then Coack "K" warned us about how it was a "dog eat dog world out there" when health class was over.
He certainly was right. It's definitely a dog eat dog world. I think some of us took that to heart, Coach.
Rest in peace and go enjoy the time with Coaches McNaught, Gordon, Johnson and all of the other greats of high school sports past.