Gibbon is 115 miles closer to the Missouri River than the Wyoming border, but the new statewide high school football schedule has the Buffaloes making two trips to the Panhandle this September.
It’s an unavoidable quirk in the 2014 and 2015 schedules that the Nebraska School Activities Association released Wednesday.
Nate Neuhaus of the NSAA said fewer out-of-state opponents are available for western teams, which means the NSAA has to look east for non-district games to fill out schedules. In Class C-2, Ainsworth, Southern Valley and Arcadia-Loup City are west of Gibbon, but none is as close to Interstate 80.
There are only 17 games against out-of-state opponents, Neuhaus said, with three in C-1, two in C-2 and Eight Man-1 and 10 in Eight Man-2.
To give C-1 and C-2 teams nine games, it required four games in Class B against C-1 schools and 14 games in C-2 against C-1s. There are 28 games between Eight Man-1 and Eight Man-2 teams.
Except for six schools in Class C-1, all schools have full schedules. Neuhaus said an odd number of teams in Class C-1 (47 in eight districts) left District C1-8 teams Chadron, Chase County, Gordon-Rushville, Mitchell and Ogallala with eight games. There were no opponents available for their idle weeks in a five-team district schedule.
“Now that the schedules are out, we’ll do some work and see if we can find them a game,’’ Neuhaus said. “David City (C-1) also, because of numbers, has an open week and it said it would be OK with eight games.”
He said full schedules were the top priority in scheduling, followed by balance in home and road scheduling for district games, then the entire schedule, for each school.
For non-district games, the NSAA tried to match up schools’ wish list for opponents.
“If two teams listed each other as their No. 1 priority, they’ll play each other,’’ Neuhaus said. “We do the best we can, but because (of geography) sometimes we’re locked in.’’
Class A schools had only three openings to fill in their schedule with the new state qualifying format of four, seven-team districts. All 28 teams will open the season with two-non district games, with the third played during the final seven weeks.
The marquee matchup on opening weekend will be Millard West-Omaha North, which in 2014 is a home game for the defending state champion Vikings. North coach Larry Martin said he’d like to play on Thursday so the game could be televised.
The Vikings follow Millard West with Omaha Burke and there’s a rematch of the 2013 state final when they play Omaha Westside in the eighth week.
“I think our schedule is pretty tough,’’ Martin said. “The non-district games they gave us are big-time. Thank God we have a lot coming back, but the following year we’ll be playing a lot of new kids.”
The three Millard schools will continue their traditional round-robin, with Millard North playing Millard South and Millard West to start the season. Millard South-Millard West in the fifth week is a district game.
Bellevue East-Bellevue West and Papillion-La Vista against Papillion-La Vista South, because each game is a district contest, will be played in week 5 and week 3, respectively, rather than as season openers.
The non-district games during the last seven weeks in Class A:
Week 3, Fremont-Lincoln North Star, Bellevue East-Omaha Bryan.
Week 4, Kearney-Papillion-La Vista, Omaha Burke-Omaha Central
Week 5, Millard West-Millard South, Omaha Northwest-South Sioux City
Week 6, Columbus-Omaha South, Lincoln Southeast-Lincoln High
Week 7, Millard North-Bellevue West, Lincoln Northeast-Norfolk
Week 8, Omaha North-Omaha Westside, Lincoln East-Lincoln Southwest
Week 9, Omaha Creighton Prep-Papillion-La Vista South, Grand Island-North Platte
“There were four teams available each week,’’ Neuhaus said, “and we tried to go with the best matchups possible.”
With 20 of the 28 schools in Class A sharing stadiums, there will be four Thursday night games at Millard’s Buell Stadium. In Lincoln, where Seacrest Field is the main stadium, three games are scheduled weekly for the city’s six public schools.
Omaha Benson’s first Class B football schedule isn’t as taxing as coach Tony Kobza feared.
The Bunnies, who will be in Class B for football the next two seasons because of an enrollment drop, have Schuyler as their season-opening opponent.