Isaac Aakre was accustomed to being a workhorse.
Josh Banderas wasn't, but he readily adapted to it.
By carrying the load for their teams, they had superlative seasons. Those culminate with their selections as the honorary captains of the 93rd World-Herald All-Nebraska football team that appears to be the youngest in history with eight non-seniors.
Aakre broke Danny Woodhead's Class A career rushing record while becoming the first Millard North quarterback to win two state titles. The Mustangs, who were 30-5 in his starts at quarterback, defeated Omaha North 17-14 in this year's final to regain the title they captured in 2010.
“I said on the field after we won that I kind of miss him already,'' Mustangs coach Fred Petito said. “We'll miss him on a day-to-day basis. He's such a gentleman and yet on the field so aggressive.”
Banderas, a Nebraska recruit, was Lincoln Southwest's leading tackler and rusher. In his only season at running back for the Silver Hawks, the former tight end ran for 1,237 yards and 18 touchdowns in 10 games.
“We added a lot on his plate and there was no drop-off,'' Southwest coach Mark King said.
Aakre, who is uncommitted, and Banderas head a 24-man All-Nebraska first team that currently has four Division I recruits. The others are Casey Sayles of Omaha North (Ohio), Nathan Bazata of eight-man Howells-Dodge (Iowa) and Christian LaCouture of Lincoln Southwest (LSU).
Aakre is the only two-time selection.
For only the sixth time, a sophomore is on the top unit. Calvin Strong broke Omaha North's single-season rushing record to be the first 10th-grader chosen since Woodhead in 2001. Also in that select group are wide receivers Erick Strickland of Bellevue West in 1989 and Matt Spethman of Lincoln East in 1987 and running backs Bobby Bass of Omaha Benson in 1972 and John Brogan of Boys Town in 1944.
|Click the image above to see a special web project featuring the All-Nebraska selections.|
Seven juniors also made the first team, including Millard West wide receiver Skyler Monaghan and defensive lineman Harrison Phillips. RJ Urzendowski of Omaha Creighton Prep, DJ Foster of Lincoln Southeast, Alec Ditoro of Papillion-La Vista, Trey Carr of Omaha Burke and Clay Fisher of Millard North are the others.
On the All-Nebraska offense are Monaghan and Urzendowski as receivers; Mike Milenkovich of Millard North, Matt Kraft of Millard South, Lee Carhart of Prep, Sayles and Foster as offensive linemen; Ditoro and Aakre as quarterbacks; Strong and Devin Washington of Lincoln Southeast as running backs; and Andy Bayne of Millard North as kicker.
Banderas is part of the first-team defense that has Freeman Coleman and Bryce Sosnowski of Millard South, Phillips and LaCouture as linemen; Nick DeLuca, Bazata and Banderas as linebackers; Jake Schlager of Class B McCook, Luke McNitt of Kearney, Carr and Fisher as defensive backs; and Jordan Bellar of three-time Class C-1 state champion Norfolk Catholic as punter.
Millard North has the most selections with five. Millard South had three, with two apiece from Millard West, Omaha Creighton Prep, Lincoln Southeast, Lincoln Southwest and Omaha North. There are 16 from the Metro Conference, which had seven of the eight teams in the Class A quarterfinals, five from the rest of Class A and three from outside Class A.
All-Nebraska and all-state selections are based on observations by The World-Herald staff and nominations by high school coaches. All coaches were emailed nomination forms.
Aakre, who sat out one game this season after a concussion, took the Mustangs through a schedule like none other encountered by an undefeated state champion in Class A. All nine regular-season opponents made the playoffs. The Mustangs also had five games decided by a touchdown or less, including their semifinal (38-35 over Millard South) and final.
Against Millard South, the Mustangs took the lead with 1:35 left only for their rival to tie the game on a Statue of Liberty reverse.
“I looked at him and Isaac said, 'Hey, we have to do it one more time,' '' Petito recalled. “It wasn't a matter of not doing it. It was a matter of getting it done.”
Banderas' Silver Hawks were knocked out by Omaha North in the first round of the playoffs, with a recurring ankle sprain sending him to the bench early in the second half.
“I'll remember Josh as a horse, and a horse we were riding particularly this year,'' King said. “When he wasn't in on offense, we had a tough time scoring.
“We had some good players, but we were riding him. He got hurt a little bit at the end of the year and that might have been the difference in that last loss.”
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