Nebraska’s Eight Man-2 is filled with offensive firepower each year, but this season’s crop of athletes features a few running backs who may turn heads come November.
Blue Hill’s Lane Deisley, Sandhills/Thedford’s Riggin Anderson, Bloomfield’s Quinten Moles and Mullen’s Lane Edis all possess talent that can potentially break school records.
Moles led all of Eight Man-2 in rushing last year and could do it again with a solid offensive line in front of him.
Anderson suffered a torn ACL a year ago, but will be back this season to help lead Sandhills/Thedford, which hopes to go a step further to this year’s Eight Man-2 championship.
Edis will lead a Mullen rushing attack that returns some key blockers. Deisley will receive help from fellow returning skill position starters as Blue Hill forges ahead behind an offensive front that’s primarily new starters.
All six teams mentioned below reached at least the second round of the 2016 playoffs. Bloomfield, Humphrey St. Francis and Blue Hill fell in the quarterfinals, while Sandhills/Thedford lost to eventual runner-up Twin Loup in the semifinals.
No. 10 Mullen, 9-1
Coach: Mitch Pfeiffer, fifth season
Returning starters: Offense: G/NG Tell Spies (Sr.); RB/CB Lane Edis (Jr.); FB Matthew Stichka (Sr.)
Key departures: The Broncos will rely on new talent on both sides of the ball after losing a majority of their 2016 starters. The absence of Daniel Young and Lance Moore may hurt the Broncos the most. Young accounted for 669 yards on the ground and Moore 579 through the air with eight touchdowns.
No. 9 Bloomfield, 9-2
Coach: Matt Kuchar, fifth season
Returning starters: RB/DB Quinten Moles (Sr.); C Jared Hornback (Sr.); LB Brantson Gieselman (Jr.); DB Trenton Holz (Jr.)
Key departures: Bloomfield will have to do without one of its core blockers who helped pave the way last season for Quinten Moles, the Eight Man-2 rushing leader with 2,511 yards. Guard McGwire Mackeprang was selected as an All-Eight Man-2 member last year. The good news — Moles is back for his senior season, as is two-year starting center Jared Hornback. Look for Michael Castaneda, the Bees’ first sub last year on the offensive line, to fill in for Mackeprang at guard.
No. 8 Wynot, 8-2
Coach: Steve Heimes, sixth season
Returning starters: Offense: OL Koran Bruening (Sr.); TE/LB Justin Lange (Sr.); WR/DB Corbin Sudbeck (Sr.)
Key departures: The Blue Devils’ passing attack will have a new signal-caller this season after the graduation of Jalen Wieseler, who finished second in the class last year with 1,629 yards and 23 touchdowns. His No. 1 target from a year ago, Dawson Sudbeck, also graduated. Sudbeck led Eight Man-2 with 833 receiving yards and added 14 touchdowns. But Wynot will still return a pair that combined for nearly 500 yards receiving in Corbin Sudbeck and Justin Lange.
No. 7 Sandhills/Thedford, 9-3
Coach: Josh Deines, sixth season
Returning starters: OL/DL Tyler Swisher (Sr.); RB/DB Riggin Anderson (Sr.); OL/DL Gage Haake (Sr.); RB/LB Cauy Pokorny (Jr.); OL/DL Chase Haake (Jr.); DB Nolan Marten (Sr.); DB Ridge Anderson (Sr.)
Key departures: Sandhills/Thedford said goodbye to a pair of tight ends from a year ago — All-Eight Man-2 member Cade Pokorny, who had 406 receiving yards with nine scores, and Austin Coffman, who had 311 yards and six touchdowns. The Knights will also be without All-Eight Man-2 defensive back Jacey Nutter, who led the class with six interceptions in 2016. Nutter also was Sandhills/Thedford’s starting quarterback last year, accounting for 1,127 yards and 24 touchdowns. The Knights will return their entire offensive and defensive lines this year, with the addition of tailback Riggin Anderson, who was sidelined last year with a torn ACL. Deines has high hopes for Anderson this year, saying he could “break all of the school’s rushing records with a healthy season.”
No. 6 Blue Hill, 9-2
Coach: Jon Coffey, third season
Returning starters: RB/LB Lane Deisley (Sr.); RB/LB Trent Kort (Sr.); QB/CB John Rouse (Sr.); WR/CB Trace Ockinga (Sr.); RB/DE Trent Karr (Sr.); TE/DE Maccoy Menke (Sr.); OL/LB Ethan Sharp (Sr.); C Grant Streff (Sr.)
Key departures: The biggest piece missing for the Bobcats this year will be three-time All-Eight Man-2 offensive lineman Collin Brown. However, Blue Hill returns seven starters on both sides of the ball, including 11 seniors. Quarterback John Rouse surpassed 1,000 yards of total offense last year, and he will have the help of running back Lane Deisley, who Coffey describes as a “top-five player this year in Eight Man-2,” and Trent Kort to help carry the load. The Bobcats’ strength will be their 3-4 defense that returns a pair of quick ends — Trent Karr and Maccoy Menke — teamed up with a physical set of linebackers — Kort, Deisley and Sharp.
No. 5 Humphrey St. Francis, 9-2
Coach: Eric Kessler, 14th season
Championships: Eight-Man 2/1995, 1996, 2009, 2015
Returning starters: WR/DB Nolan Kosch (Sr.); LB Riley Huettner (Sr.); LB Jarrett Weidner (Jr.)
Key departures: The Flyers lose a solid talent in RB/LB Colton Engel, a key supporting role player in FB Evan Classen and possibly the biggest loss in two-time All-Eight Man-2 lineman Cole Wemhoff. Engel ran for 1,300 yards last season behind Classen and Wemhoff, but additional veteran leadership will be what coach Eric Kessler will be looking for this season. Finding a new go-to guy and a supporting cast will be key.
Which team do you think will win the 2017 Eight Man-2 state championship?
The World-Herald has started preparing you for the high school football season with a story previewing a new team or teams each day. This past week Eight Man-2 was featured. Who do you think will win the title?