NEW COACH, BUT BEARCATS HAVE SAME GOAL

After a couple of months passed, it was easier for new Scottsbluff coach Jud Hall to watch tape of last season's Class B championship.

"It was pretty evident on the film that we lost to a better team," Hall said.

The game against Omaha Skutt was competitive for the first quarter-and-a-half before the SkyHawks found their stride, rolling to a 48-27 victory at Memorial Stadium.

It was the only loss for the Bearcats (12-1). It also was the final game for longtime coach Joe Benson.

Hall, who had been Scottsbluff's offensive coordinator the past six seasons, now has the reins. And he's bullish on the Bearcats' chances to make a deep playoff run with the return of 22 seniors and 12 starters — six apiece on offense and defense.

Hall's optimism is buoyed by experienced depth along both lines.

"We think our offensive and defensive lines will be a real strength for us," Hall said. "There are a number of guys with experience who are back. We're going to rely on our guys up front on offense to create some space for playmakers behind them.

"On defense, we want to control the line of scrimmage and make our opponents do things they don't want to do to try and beat us."

Scottsbluff also returns some skill players — namely quarterback/linebacker Sebastian Harsh.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior was a key offensive weapon with his arm and legs. He threw for 1,137 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for 989 yards on 141 carries with 18 touchdowns.

"He's going to be a good player for us and lead from quarterback position," Hall said. "I anticipate him being a leader on that side of the ball. He'll be able to see defenses easier this year behind center because he had 13 games last year and got some really good experience."

Harsh was a first-team all state selection at linebacker, too. He finished with 59 tackles — 41 unassisted — 16 1⁄2 tackles for loss, two pass breakups, 15 quarterback hurries and three interceptions last year. Harsh converted one of those picks into a touchdown.

"He will play a variety of defensive positions this year because he can do so many things," Hall said. "He can line up at different linebacker spots, and he can also be a defensive end in certain packages. He can play pass coverage and rush the passer from the end.

"Sebastian is hard to block and he's just a natural at finding the football. His arms are long, and that makes him hard to block. It's hard to get hands on him from the end position."

Hall said running back Jacob Krul is also key to the offense. Last season, Krul played behind Chris Busby and averaged 9.4 yards per carry with 668 total yards and 10 touchdowns.

The return of Sam Clarkson should help make both lines stronger, too.

After a solid sophomore campaign, Clarkson missed his junior year with a torn ACL. He healed in time to play for the Bearcats' basketball team.

Scottsbluff's schedule again will be challenging. It opens at home against Class A North Platte before traveling back-to-back weekends to Hastings and Grand Island Northwest. Gering and Sidney also are road games, as is the regular-season finale against McCook.

"North Platte had some coaching changes just before the start of last season and they drastically improved as the season went on," Hall said. "After those next two games on the road, we'll find out what kind of mental toughness we have."

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