It can be challenging to rally after a crushing state championship loss. It can be even tougher to find a way to replace 13 starters after losing 11 seniors.
However, coach Jon Coffey believes he and the Bobcats are up to the challenge.
“We’re going to surprise some teams,” Coffey said. “You know, everyone says we’ve lost a lot, which we did, but we’re not going to give up, I promise you that. We’re going to be (a) pretty feisty young group.”
He said one of the team’s main goals is keeping the streak of 13-straight state playoff appearances alive.
“We have a lot of young players ready to step up and keep the Bobcat tradition of competing, and it starts with hitting the weight room to get physical, more athletic. It all starts with the work we put in this summer.”
Eight Man-2 No. 3 Blue Hill
Coach: Jon Coffey, fourth season
Championships: Class C2, 2008
Returning starters: QB JC Himmelberg (Sr.); OL Tony Bauman (Sr.); RB/K Joe Mackin (Sr.)
Key departure: Quarterback John Rouse. As a dual-threat, which is especially valuable in eight-man football, Rouse’s combination of playmaking and leadership were very valuable for the Bobcats on their run to the state championship game.
Key returning player: Running back Joe Mackin is one of three main starters to return this fall. Mackin, a Swiss army knife-type player, will be a strong candidate for the all-state team because of his versatility.
Coffey said of Mackin: “He’s a good weapon for us. Joe was an all-state kicker, punter (and) wing-back, and he returned punts and kicks for us as well. He does a lot of things for us.”
Breakout player: Junior RB Max Mooreman. One of the returning Bobcats with experience this season, he will be asked to take a big step.
“He’ll play some running back for us,” Coffey said. “He’s only about 5-8, 160 pounds, but he’s really quick. I think he’ll have a good year for us, he brings a lot of athleticism for us.”
Others to watch: OL Tony Bauman (Sr.); LB Kolton Bohlen (So.)
On offense: The Bobcats’ power running attack has been their bread and butter under Coffey, scoring 47.8 points per game last season. The coaching staff believes they have the right mix of athleticism and understanding of the offense to continue their success. They will also be able to run some spread offense with JC Himmelberg under center and talented pass catchers. They also have an impressive stable of ball carriers between Mackin, Mooreman, and Bohlen.
On defense: Senior Tony Bauman will be making the move to nose tackle for Blue Hill, and at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, he’ll be relied on as a force in the trenches and as a leader. Coffey also said that while perhaps undersized at the linebacker spots, his players more than make up for it with quickness, range and the ability to read the offense.
Key matchup: Coffey highlighted the week two tilt at Diller-Odell, which played in Eight Man-1 last season, as the toughest test of the year for the Bobcats.
“Traveling to Diller-Odell week two will be tough because some of our younger guys will just be settling into their roles and there will be some learning and improving on the fly,” he said. “As the state runners-up, as a traditionally competitive team, we know teams will be shooting for us, and we know everyone will a challenge for us.”
2018 schedule (with 2017 record)
x-Aug. 31, at Diller-Odell (6-3)
x-Sept. 28, at Giltner (6-4)
x-Oct. 5, at Lawrence-Nelson (8-3)
X — denotes playoff teams; district opponents in bold type
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Front row, from left: Sam Sims, Grand Island; Dietrick Stolz, Grand Island Central Catholic; James Burks, Omaha Burke; Dylan Sales, Omaha Burke; Shane Dailey, Bellevue West; Jarod Epperson, Omaha Skutt. Second row, from left: D.J. Gross, McCook; Garrett Snodgrass, York; Xavier Watts, Omaha Burke; Jevyon Ducker, Bellevue West; Kohl Herbolsheimer, Millard South; Alex Rodgers, Omaha Roncalli. Third row, from left: Joseph Krause, Seward; Ethan Piper, Norfolk Catholic; Nick Henrich, Omaha Burke; Garrett Nelson, Scottsbluff; Chris Hickman, Omaha Burke. Back row, from left: Zavier Betts, Bellevue West; Mehki Butler, Omaha North; Caden Johnson, Wahoo Neumann; Tyson Gordon, Omaha Skutt; Baylor Scheierman, Aurora; Noah Stafursky, York. Not pictured: Isaiah Alford, Lincoln High
Like the burr oaks at Mahoney State Park that were the backdrop for this photo, the 2017 All-Nebraska football team branched out with players from the Wyoming state line to the Missouri River.
The 2016 All-Nebraska football team "earned their wings" at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum.
Back row from left: York's Masry Mapieu, Bellevue West's Sylvo Johnson, Lincoln East's Chris Walker, Gretna's Patrick Arnold, Bellevue West's Tyler Ciurej, Omaha Burke's Cole Frahm, Wilber-Clatonia's Riley Homolka, Norfolk's Lane McCallum, Ashland-GW's Brett Kitrell, and Beatrice's Cam Jurgens.
Middle row from left: Kearney's Noah Urbanek, Bellevue West's Jaylin Bradley, Omaha North's Kendrick Parker, Omaha North's Milton Sargbah, Elkhorn South's Moses Bryant, Omaha Skutt's Christian Banker, and Creighton Prep's AJ Hubner.
Front row from left: Wahoo Neumann's Noah Vedral, Omaha North's Zion Williams, Bellevue West's Diego Galvan, McCook's Zach Schlager, Bellevue West's Kevin Ponec, Norris' Austin Schultz, and Millard North's Jack Begley.
The 2015 All-Nebraska football team gathered at Papillion-La Vista High School for the photo shoot.
The 2014 All-Nebraska football team posted on the steps of the Joslyn Art Museum. The cover read: "A Step Ahead: The 24 members of the All-Nebraska football team towered over foes."
Back rows, starting from left: Papillion-La Vista South’s Jeremy Kowalski, No. 75; Seward’s Adam Holtorf, No. 79; Papillion-La Vista South’s Ryan Earith; Kearney’s Brian Arp, No. 55; Elkhorn South’s Brett Stinson; Grand Island’s Kevin Cahoy, No. 12; Omaha Central’s Tre Sanders, No. 6; Omaha Central’s DaiShon Neal, No. 9; Grand Island’s Pierce Almond, No. 2; Blair’s Vance Janssen; Bellevue West’s CJ Johnson; Boone Central/Newman Grove’s Wyatt Mazour; Omaha Central’s Xavier Graham, No. 64; Creighton Prep’s Jeremiah Stovall; and Creighton Prep’s Jack McLeay, No. 54. Front rows, starting from left: Omaha North’s Cole Bixler, No. 34; Omaha North’s Michael Decker, No. 78; Omaha North’s Calvin Strong, No. 5; Omaha North’s Jason Martin; Grand Island Central Catholic’s Youhanna Ghaifan; Millard North’s Adrrell Taylor, No. 27; Omaha North’s Marquise Lewis, No. 1; McCook’s Bryce Lyons, No. 21; and Omaha North’s Markell Vaughn, No. 22.
In 2013, the All-Nebraska football and volleyball teams came together for a photo shoot, and the cover was designed to look like a Facebook page with the teams taking one big selfie.
The 2012 All-Nebraska football team made a splash in the shark tunnel of the Scott Aquarium at the Henry Doorly Zoo.
Standing, from left: Luke McNitt, Kearney; DJ Foster, Lincoln Southeast; Josh Banderas, Lincoln Southwest; Nick DeLuca, Millard North; Harrison Phillips, Millard West; Mike Milenkovich, Millard North; Bryce Sosnowski, Millard South; Nathan Bazata, Howells-Dodge; Casey Sayles, Omaha North.
Middle row: Christian LaCouture, Lincoln Southwest; Jordan Bellar, Norfolk Catholic; Clay Fisher Millard North; Isaac Aakre, Millard North; Matt Kraft, Millard South; Alec Ditoro, Papillion-La Vista; Jake Schlager, McCook; Lee Carhart, Creighton Prep; Freeman Coleman, Millard South.
Front row: Andy Bayne, Millard North; Trey Carr, Omaha Burke; Calvin Strong, Omaha North; Skyler Monaghan, Millard West; Devin Washington, Lincoln Southeast; RJ Urzendowski, Creighton Prep.
With the Omaha skyline in the background, the 2011 All-Nebraska football team was "Standing Tall" at Pioneer Courage Park not far from the Omaha World-Herald building.
Bottom Row (from left): Tay Bender, RB, Lincoln Southwest; Isaac Aakre, RB, Millard North; Landon Arnold, OL, Millard North; Andrew Coppa, DL, Omaha Burke; Trey Foster, DL, Lincoln Southeast; Bo Liekhus, DB, Bellevue West.
Middle Row (from left): Darian Barrientos-Jackson, DB, Omaha Central; James Anderson, OL, Omaha Burke; Andy Janovich, LB, Gretna; Drew Farlee, K, Norfolk Catholic; Mike Minter Jr., DB, Lincoln North Star; Sam Cotton, DL, Lincoln Southeast; Devin Washington, RB, Lincoln Southeast; Sam Foltz, DB, Grand Island; Jeremy Callahan, P, Lexington; Robbie Lafour, OL, Lincoln Southeast; Jake Schany, LB, Blair; Jordan Nelson, RB, Omaha Burke; Ryker Fyfe, QB, Grand Island.
Top Row (from left): Jordan Brichacek, OL, Howells; Zach Oliver, WR, Omaha Burke; Terry Grigsby, DB, Omaha North; Drew Ott, LB, Giltner; Mike Shoff, OL, Cambridge.
All-Nebraska football captains Jimmie Forsythe of Omaha Burke and Tyson Broekemeier of Aurora were the focus in 2010 during this shoot at Turner Park at Midtown Crossing.
The 2009 All-Nebraska football hopped aboard this old streetcar at the Durham Museum.
There was "nothing pedestrian" about the 2008 All-Nebraska football team, which posed in front of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
Back row, from left, Tyrone Sellers of McCook, Corey Serrano of North Platte, Nathan Zook of Grand Island, Eric Koehlmoos of Pierce, Tyler Daake of Norfolk Catholic, Tyler Niederklein of Millard West, Charles Viers of Millard West, Josh Kage of Papillion-LaóVista, Jake Herweyer of Millard West, Cole Pensick of Lincoln Northeast, Jordan Hale of Millard South, Andrew Rodriguez of Aurora, James Davis of Omaha North, Jon Lechner of Prep, Scott Criss of Omaha Creighton Prep and C.J. Zimmerer of Omaha Gross. Front row, Matt Berry of McCook, Braden Taylor of Grand Island, Vinny Molina of Kearney, Kohlman Adema-Schulte of Millard West, Bryant Giles of Omaha North, Michael Burrus of Papillion-LaóVista South, Ronald Coleman of North, Tyler Seals of Bellevue West and Greg Hardin of Bellevue West.
For the 2007 All-Nebraska football team, The World-Herald chose individual shots for the cover instead of the group photo, and the result was "Picture Perfect."
No challenge was too steep for the "Rock Solid" 2006 All-Nebraska football team, who posed in front of a climbing wall at Dick's Sporting Goods.
The 2005 All-Nebraska football team wore letterman jackets for the photo shoot instead of their jerseys.
Top, from left, Millard North's Corey Young, Lincoln Southwest's Ian Dike, Millard North's Adam Nelson, Bellevue West's Silas Fluellen, Omaha Central's D.J. Jones (back row), Millard North's Jeff Tarpinian, Kearney's Tony Green, Lincoln Southwest's Ben Martin, Bellevue West's Jeff Martin, Lincoln Southwest's Ollie Sloup, Papillion-LaVista's Kyle Dooley and McCook's Josh Cherry.
Bottom, from left, Omaha Benson's Anthony Williams, Kearney's Joey Rousseau, Lincoln Southwest's Andy Cotton, Omaha Burke's Ricky Henry, Omaha South's Philip Barrientos, Creighton Prep's Mark Waring, Omaha Burke's Alex Henery, Millard West's Brandon Pete, Omaha Burke's Travis Liechti, Millard North's Paul Homer, Omaha North's Aaron Terry and Millard West's Matt Leaders.
Nothing says football like rows of poinsettias. Those were the accents that went with this photo shoot for the 2004 All-Nebraska football team.