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07/28/2017 - Football Schedule Includes Key Early Season Games

By Jeff Motz

In less than a month, the 2017 high school football season begins and in the first two weeks, key match ups will highlight what could be an exciting and interesting campaign.

Waverly and Columbus will open up our broadcast schedule August 25, with a 7pm kickoff at Viking Stadium.  Last year, the Vikings rallied back in a season opening thriller to beat Columbus 19-17 on a rainy night at Pawnee Park.

The Vikings and Discoverers may live up to the hype again this season.  You can join John Harris and myself for the action.

The following week, the city's biggest rivalry of the season will be Sept. 1 at 4:30pm, as Lincoln Southwest squares off against Lincoln Southeast.  In the past 10 years, the game between the Silver Hawks and Knights has been the biggest draw from a crowd perspective.  In 2010, the game drew 8,500 fans to Seacrest Field.

Based on outcomes and performances from last season, 2017 could be the year where Lincoln football makes an impact in the Class A race.

Southeast, for now, would be the heavy favorite to win the city with Lincoln High, Southwest, Pius X and East not too far behind.  East, who lost some key skill position players due to graduation, may be the darkhorse in Lincoln with leftover experience from last year's Class A semifinal team.  I still hold hopes for Northeast and North Star, both of whom have young talent coming into the fold.

After watching three games involving the Links last season, Lincoln High seems to be the next heavy favorite with youth developing into veteran players eyeing a shot at the city title and aspirations of potentially going further in the Class A playoff picture.  Keep eye on the fellas from 22nd and "J."

Under second year head coach Andrew Sherman, Southwest seems to be ready to get back into a dominant position.  The Silver Hawks have built up quite a football culture in making the playoffs 13 times in the school's 15-year existence.  Only one time (2005) have they made the Class A championship, a 35-14 loss to Millard North.  

Last year's appearance in the first round and early exit at the hands of eventual runner-up Omaha North is an indicator that Southwest has a bigger desire to get back to post-season play in 2017.

Pius X started out 2016 with a 5-0 record before suffering four losses to end the regular season and qualifying as a wild-card into the Class A playoffs.  It ended with a 42-16 loss to Omaha Burke in the opening round.  Still, with some key skill position players coming back, including dual quarterbacks (Thomas Robertson and Joe Raun), the Thunderbolts will look to make an impact again.

Southeast is a heavy favorite because of experience and talent.  Jack Strong, who missed the last three games of the 2016 season with a knee injury, is back as a fourth-year quarterback for Coach Ryan Gottula.  

Wisconsin recruit and senior lineman Bryson Williams will help in creating paths for Strong and others in the Knights' backfield.  Their first round Class A playoff loss to East (24-21) may have left a bitter taste, but it may be motivation for Southeast in their quest for their 10th state championship and first title since 2011.

As for Lincoln Northeast and Lincoln North Star, it may be another year of rebuilding.  But out of that could be a few surprises with some young talent.  

Each team, especially Northeast, will have tough schedules this season.  The Rockets arguably have the toughest schedule in the state, playing teams like Southeast, Kearney, East, Millard North, Papillion-LaVista and Omaha Creighton Prep.  Potential wins could come to Omaha Benson, North Star (after losing to the Gators a year ago) and Fremont.   Northeast could give teams like East, Papio and Southeast a run for their money and pull off potential upsets.  

Some skill position players, such as quarterback Talon Little and running back Tivon Phillips, are gone from the Rocket program due to graduation.  Look for Shadon Shannon and Hahler Gorth to be battling for the starting spot at quarterback heading into fall camp.  Sophomores Tayvione Bluford-Jones, Nick Halleen and Kaleb Merrill along with junior Darius Perry seem to be in line for the running back job.  

Experience from wide receivers Jakobi Rose, Tobin Vocasek and Ben Stewart will be helpful.  

North Star has the task of facing Pius X, defending Class A champ Bellevue West, Norfolk, Omaha Westside, Burke and Southwest.  Potential wins include Omaha South and Omaha Northwest.

Gavyn Leitschuck is the returning starting quarterback for North Star, while Jonah Housh will be a likely target at tight end.  

I see good things coming from each team as players progress through the year.  To be cliche, all it will take for both Northeast and North Star to be effective early is to gel immediately.  

While it may be perceived that both Northeast and North Star are "rebuilding" or "continuing to improve", let's not forget that these are teams who made the playoffs two seasons ago.  

Coming up on August 7, which happens to be the first day of fall practice for all the high school teams, will roll out our football previews of Lincoln area teams.  We'll keep them posted as a reference point on our website through the end of September.
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