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CURRENT ARTICLE
10/30/2016 - From The Press Box: East Showing Heart In Playoffs

Does it surprise you that Lincoln East pulled off an upset on Lincoln Southeast Friday night in the opening round of the Class A High School Football playoffs?

Many of you may say yes, while those of you who follow the teams are likely saying "not really."

I'm on the fence, mainly because I thought East continued to improve from their last meeting in September but I also saw how Southeast bounced back from a shutout at the hands of Omaha North and playing without starting quarterback Jack Strong.  I suppose it's no surprise that East's momentum late in the year helped a lot.

The Spartans are playing in their first quarterfinal since 2006, when they were shut out by Millard South 14-6.  It's been 33 years since East has played anywhere past the quarterfinal round.  They were one win away from playing in the Class A championship in 1983, but fell in the semifinals to Omaha Gross 24-7.

In 1980, East fell to eventual state champ Creighton Prep 31-0 in the semifinals.  The Spartans two state titles under the playoff system came in 1975 and 1979, both times beating Omaha Westside in the championship.

While it's been 37 years since East won a state football title, this year's team seems very confident going into Friday's game at Omaha Burke.  If they clear that hurdle, then it's a likely rematch with either Omaha North or Kearney.

A 20-17 heartbreaker in overtime at Kearney and how well they played in the 49-19 loss to North are looming in the minds of Spartan players and coaches.  But, like many teams in sports, you take one game at a time.

So is it totally out of the question to see this East High football team compete for a state title?  I suppose it's not.   It's a brand new "season", as they say.

Burke is a talented football team, losing twice in single digit margins to North and Bellevue West.  East, though, is tough and gritty, playing with heart at the right time.

For Southeast, they had a terrific year.  Coach Ryan Gottula has a great group of kids and coaches who finally got over that hump and competed well against the opposition.  Strong, Kipp Hergenrader, Sterling Smith, Brian Meyer and a few others helped make the Knights into a power once again.  Look for Southeast to be back in the hunt next season.

 
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LINKS SHOW GREAT EFFORT IN LOSS TO THUNDERBIRDS

You may have been listening to our webcast of the Lincoln High and Bellevue West playoff game Friday night, thinking this was a choreographed version of the Texas/Oklahoma State football game from this year.

It was close.  But in the end, Lincoln High ran out of gas and played as hard as they could late in the game and it was much more exciting than the 55-34 final score would indicate.

The Links show a lot of promise for next season and the season after, too.

Quarterback Cedric Case showed maturity late in the season and handled adversity well.  Running back Frazzie Wynn will be a guy to keep an eye on, too, for next year.  He's someone that's able to run in between the tackles.

CJ Jones is another guy that is quick and can run the ball.  Two key losses will be Dijon Thomas and Caleb Brown, both seniors who were a big part of this team.

PIUS X AND SOUTHWEST SHOW GREAT SPIRIT IN POST SEASON PLAY

Congratulations to both Andrew Sherman of Lincoln Southwest and Ryan Kearney of Lincoln Pius X for having reached the state football playoffs in their first season as head coaches.

Pius X, I think, will be a team that could have another successful season next year.  Southwest, also, could be another contender.  For both teams, there's one direction to go and it's up!
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