Kevin White doesn’t know this, but this is the day I envy our western Iowa prep expert.
While Kevin goes to the UNI-Dome for every Iowa football semifinal, there’s no way in Nebraska to do the same. Sometimes you can watch two, if the home teams share a field or there’s not great travel distance involved, but most often it’s just one.
This is a year I’d like to see all eight of these Friday night semifinals. All but one is a rematch from the regular season, leading to storylines galore.
A team outside Omaha and Lincoln hasn’t played in the Class A final since Kearney was champion in 2006. And here are the Bearcats again, hosting Omaha Creighton Prep. New coach Tim Johnk has the Junior Jays a win away from their second final in four years
Omaha North is in its sixth consecutive semifinal — only Millard North, with seven from 2001 to 2007, has a longer string in Class A. The Vikings host Omaha Burke — guaranteeing an OPS school will be in the final — at Kinnick Stadium.
Gretna never has gotten over the hump and into the Class B final. This is the Dragons’ last chance — they host Omaha Skutt — before they move into an expanded Class A next season.
Elkhorn South, which also is heading to Class A, needs to beat York to keep alive its hopes of becoming the first three-peat champion in Class B.
Wahoo, which visits Norfolk Catholic, is the only team standing in the way of a Class C-1 state final between Mid-State Conference teams.
If Pierce beats Boone Central/Newman Grove in Albion, the Bluejays would be the first four-loss team in any class to reach the finals since Millard North was 6-6 before losing to Prep in Class A’s 2004 final.
Battle Creek has come up short in the Class C-2 semifinals the past four years. The Braves get another crack when they host Yutan. This matchup ensures Class C-2 will have a three-loss team in Lincoln.
Lincoln Lutheran, visiting Centennial in the only non-rematch, is breaking new ground with each win. It’s the Warriors’ first semifinal.
Although the state has suitable stadiums — Seacrest Field in Lincoln, Buell Stadium in Millard, Burke Stadium in Omaha and Cope Stadium in Kearney — for bringing the semifinals together, those lack what the UNI-Dome has. Climate control.
As the state finals in Memorial Stadium have shown, the casual fan, unattached to either team, won’t brave the November elements. Thus it would be economically infeasible.
So all I can do is follow our NEPrepZone Twitter feed for these Friday games (and again on Monday for the eight-man semifinals) and dream of a dome.
Gretna, Storm up to Class A
Gretna and Elkhorn South have grown to be Class A schools.
In the new NSAA three-grade enrollments (grades 9-10-11) approved Thursday, those two schools will be the 27th and 28th largest in the state. Gretna went from 876 students to 972, Elkhorn South from 929 to 959.
Elkhorn High, which will be Class A in football only, added 100 students since last year, from 812 to 912. Columbus, also moving up in football, grew from 854 to 922.
In football, where the new enrollment cutoffs take effect next fall, there are 33 schools above the 425-boy minimum for Class A, 22 in the Class B range of 160-424, 44 in the C-1 range of 70-159 and 42 in the C-2 range that starts with 69. Schools with boy enrollments of 47 or less are eligible for the eight-man playoffs.
South Sioux City and North Platte, the two Class A schools closest to the cutoff, are said to be considering the option of dropping to Class B and not be playoff eligible. Schools have until Nov. 30 to declare what level of football — 11-, eight- or six-man — they will play the next two seasons and if they want to opt up or down in class.
Of those 33 schools that could be Class A in football, Lincoln Pius X, Columbus, North Platte, Elkhorn and South Sioux City will be Class B in other sports, such as volleyball and basketball, that put the 28 largest schools into Class A.
Platteview, Nebraska City, Aurora, Sidney and Holdrege are current Class B schools in football that appeared headed to Class C-1. Only Aurora is expected to opt back into Class B.
Syracuse, Boone Central/Newman Grove, Norfolk Catholic and David City Aquinas are among the current Class C-1 football schools who appear to be bound for C-2.
Football classifications are on a two-year cycle. All other sports are classified year-to-year.
All classes in football will have districts with either five teams or six. That means Class A likely will have six districts, Class B four or five and C-1 and C-2 eight apiece. In Class A, the NSAA board of directors decided Thursday, the top two teams in each district are automatic qualifiers and the NSAA point system determining the remaining teams filling out the 16-team playoff bracket.
All other 11-man classes will fill their 16-team playoffs with district champions and at-large teams. The two eight-man classes retain their format. Six-man, which returns to NSAA control of the postseason, will expand its playoff bracket from eight teams to 16 and use the point system solely. The six-man final is expected to stay in Kearney but, with the expanded field, be played later than it currently is.
All schools that opt down could regain playoff eligibility in the second year of the football cycle if their enrollment number falls within the allowable range. Eight-man schools were given that option for the first time in 2016-17.
The NSAA board also ruled that there will be no bonus points for schools playing an opponent that has opted down a class.
Champion’s move denied
Three-time undefeated Class D wrestling champion Cameron Riggs, who transferred Sept. 26 from North Platte St. Patrick’s to Maxwell, unsuccessfully appealed his ineligibility ruling by the NSAA.
The NSAA board upheld Executive Director Jim Tenopir’s determination that there was insufficient evidence for a bona fide change in the family’s domicile from their North Platte home.
Dan Riggs, the wrestler’s father, said during a telephonic hearing that part of the family business involves rental properties. The reason his son left St. Patrick’s, the elder Riggs testified, was a dispute over what was being taught in a science class.
Because the transfer came during the school year, which necessitates a 90 school-day ineligibility period, the wrestler would be three days short of fulfilling it before the start of districts in February. Riggs could return to St. Patrick’s and regain eligibility immediately.