Prep football previews: Eight Man-1 Nos. 10-5

West Holt lost most of its 2017 skill position players, including receiver Shayden Neptune.

Eight Man-1 will have a different look this season.

Thanks to a new two-year enrollment cycle, some teams moved down to Eight Man-2, while others came up from Eight Man-2, including last year’s state champion Bruning-Davenport-Shickley. Other schools also will make the transition from 11-man to the eight-man game.

No. 10 Kenesaw (9-1)

Coach: Craig Schnitzler (18th year, 114-55)

Championships: None

Returning starters: QB/DE Taylor Pulver (Sr.), TE/LB Ryan Denkert (Sr.), RB/DE John Schuster (Sr.)

Player to watch: Quarterback Taylor Pulver returns after accounting for 22 touchdowns in his first season as a starter. Pulver had 1,428 yards of total offense last season, including 1,051 yards and 17 touchdowns through the air. He’s also a two-year starter on defense.

“We have high expectations for him ,” Kenesaw coach Craig Schnitzler said.

Key departure: All three starters along the offensive line graduated, so the Blue Devils will be young up front.

“I can’t ask any more of (the young players), they just have to continue to develop on a daily basis,” Schnitzler said. “When we get into the season, without that varsity experience they’re going to need to learn fast.”

No. 9 CWCE (8-3)

Coach: Tom Thramer (eighth year, 49-23)

Championships: None

Returning starters: OL/DL Joshua Klabenes (Jr.), OL/DL Logan Sanford (So.)

Player to watch: On the defensive line, Klabenes recorded 50 tackles. The Renegades graduated nine seniors from a team that reached the final eight of the Eight Man-1 playoffs. His experience will be invaluable for a young CWCE team.

“He was almost unblockable at nose tackle,” CWCE coach Tom Thramer said. “I really think he can make our defense work this year as he will demand double teams all season. He is pretty athletic for as big as he is (6-3, 250).”

Key departure: Daniel Libolt rushed for 1,485 yards and had 24 touchdowns while averaging 135 rushing yards per game. He had nearly twice as many carries as any other CWCE player, and the two returning leading rushers for the Renegades, Wyatt Wagner and Xavier Hobbs, combined for 270 yards in 2017.

No. 8 West Holt (8-2)

Coach: Steve Neptune (ninth year, 48-29)

Championships: None

Returning starters: TE/LB Kooper Jelinek (Sr.), RB/S Jordan Tasler (Sr.), C/DT Joe Seger (Jr.)

Player to watch: Jelinek, who has the ability to play on the line as a tight end or split out as a wide receiver, is one of the few West Holt players with experience. He will be counted on to step up as a leader for Steve Neptune’s squad along with the team’s other seniors.

“They will be counted on to do various leadership roles,” Neptune said. “They’ll have to step up. (Jelinek) is very capable of doing that.”

Key departure: Most of the skill position players on offense graduated, including quarterback Bryce Kerkman, running backs Payton Williams and Mason Hale and wide receiver Shayden Neptune.

“We’ve got some young talent in the freshman and sophomore classes, so they’re going to have to step up,” Neptune said. “We’re going to take our lumps, but here in a year or two, we’ll be pretty good.”

No. 7 Perkins County (8-3)

Coach: Johnathan Hunt (first year)

Championships: None

Returning starters: TE Tanner Burge (Sr.), DL Brandon Knoles (Jr.)

Player to watch: The Plainsmen won two playoff games for just the second time in school history in 2017, and Knoles returns to the defensive line to help build off last season’s success. As a returning starter on a young defense, he will be tasked with leading his teammates in addition to making plays on the defensive line.

Key departure: Quarterback Charles Johnson, who led the Plainsmen into the third round of the state playoffs, graduated and will suit up this fall at Peru State. Johnson was one of six seniors on last season’s Perkins County roster to graduate

In addition, the Plainsmen lost their coach in the offseason for the second year in a row. Lance Steffen took the job at Elmwood-Murdock and Johnathan Hunt was hired as the new head coach. The Perkins County upperclassmen will have their third coach in three years.

No. 6 Nebraska Lutheran (8-2)

Coach: Benjy Wells (ninth year, 28-41)

Championships: None

Returning starters: LB Dillon Malchow (Sr.), LB Sam Otte (Jr.)

Player to watch: Malchow has the second-most tackles of any returning Nebraska Lutheran player (38), and he also is leading returning rusher for the Knights (271).

“We do have a few returning players and they will have to grow into being leaders in a little bit bigger fashion for us this year through their example and play,” Wells said of Malchow, Otte and the other returning Knights. “Some vocal leaders, too, we’ll also have to have some guys grow into those roles a little bit.”

Key departure: Quarterback Kyle Richert had 1,613 yards of total offense and accounted for 31 touchdowns for the Knights in 2017. Ben Riegsecker added 1,093 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.

No. 5 Medicine Valley (11-1)

Coach: Scott Johnsen (13th year, 68-46)

Championships: None

Returning starters: RB Dylan Davis (Sr.), LB Reid Stout (Sr.), OL/NG Austin Wolfe (Sr.), TE/DE Quade Potter (Jr.)

Player to watch: On offense, Potter caught 11 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 68 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, an interception and fumble recovery on defense for the Raiders.

“We will look to Quade with his returning experience to help provide leadership for the rest of the team,” Medicine Valley coach Scott Johnsen said.

Key departure: The Raiders graduated eight seniors from the team who reached the state semifinals for the first time in school history. Among that group of seniors was running back Landon Lenz, who rushed for 1,903 yards and 35 touchdowns.

“The lack of returning starters will be an obstacle that we will need to overcome but we have several returning players with game experience,” Johnsen said. “Success early in the season will help us get started on the right path.”

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