Twin Loup cruised through the first 10 games of the 2017 season undefeated — with an average margin of victory of 44.7 points — before losing 37-34 to Blue Hill in the state quarterfinals.
“I try to forget that last game,” coach Mike Kozeal said. “We have a lot of kids to replace this year, but we still have the potential to be good.”
The Wolves will have a new lineup after the departure of 10 seniors, including two-time All-Eight Man-2 running back Alex Horky, 2017 All-Eight Man-2 defensive back Spencer Keefe and 2016 All-Eight Man-2 kicker Hunter Kraus.
“Those kids were great leaders,” Kozeal said. “We have to take the things we learned from those guys and develop our own identity.”
Eight Man-2 No. 4 Twin Loup
Coach: Mike Kozeal, 21st season
Returning starters: RB/LB Colby Coons (Jr.), RB/CB Cooper Coons (Jr.), C/DT Raif Ruppert (Jr.)
Key returning player: Junior Colby Coons, who leads the backfield platoon alongside his brother Cooper. Last season, Colby rushed for 224 yards on 37 attempts and scored three touchdowns in addition to making 89 tackles at linebacker.
“Colby is a tough, physical player,” Kozeal said. “He’s probably the one who will be the key to our success.”
Others to watch: QB/S Dylan Osborn (Sr.), FB/LB Quade Young (So.), G/DT Rope Bottorf (Jr.), G/DT Dillan Saner (Sr.), G/DT Ben Moore (Jr.), RB/S JD Meeks (Sr.), WR/S Jibril Harris (Jr.), FB/S Lathyn Collins (Jr.), WR/S Bryce Lamb (Jr.)
Key departure: Two-time All-Eight Man-2 running back Alex Horky will be missed the most. Horky’s production on offense will be difficult to replace, as he averaged 298.2 all-purpose yards and 4.7 touchdowns per game last season. Over his career, Horky amassed 5,073 rushing yards and 93 touchdowns, including 2,180 yards and 47 touchdowns in 2017. He was also the team’s leading tackler, making 145 at safety last year.
Breakout player: Sophomore FB/LB Quade Young. As a freshman, Young rushed for 58 yards on seven carries, scored one touchdown and made 36 tackles at linebacker before breaking his collarbone six games into the season. Despite limited experience, Young showed promise.
“Quade has a lot of potential,” Kozeal said. “He brings size and strength as an underclassman, and will have an impact on both sides of the ball.”
On offense: Expect hard-nosed, tough football from Twin Loup. Behind their big offensive line, featuring Raif Ruppert (6-foot, 235 pounds), Rope Bottorf (6-0, 300), Dillan Saner (6-3, 275), Ben Moore (6-2, 300) and transfer Hunter Teichmeier (6-0, 265), the Wolves will stick to what they know best: running the ball.
Leading the offense will be senior quarterback Dylan Osborn, who is taking over for three-year-starter Rowdy Oxford. Osborn will spearhead the offense from the I-formation, and will be joined by the Coons brothers in the backfield.
On defense: The Wolves will run a 3-3-2 and look to capitalize on turnovers and improve against the passing game.
“We’ll be good against the run,” Kozeal said. “But our biggest challenge will be slowing down the passing attack and spread.”
Twin Loup loses three of its five leading tacklers in Horky, Hunter Kraus and Spencer Keefe, but Colby and Cooper Coons will lead the defense at linebacker and cornerback, respectively.
Game to watch: The biggest challenge for Kozeal’s team comes Week 7 on the road against Clearwater-Orchard.
The Cyclones return seven starters on both offense and defense.
2018 schedule (with 2017 record)
Aug. 23, Anselmo-Merna (3-5)
x-Aug. 31, at Riverside (11-0)
x-Sept. 14, at Kenesaw (9-1)
x-Sept. 28, Central Valley (3-6)
x-Oct. 5, at Clearwater-Orchard (6-3)
x-Oct. 11, at Stuart (3-6)
Oct. 18, St. Mary’s (1-7)
X — denotes playoff teams; District opponents in bold type
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July 1: Air Force's Nic Ready hit a total of 55 home runs, including 21 in the final round, to edge Clemson's Logan Davidson in the College Home Run Derby.
June 28: Oregon State celebrates beating Arkansas 5-0 in Game 3 of the CWS championship series. The Beavers were down to their last out in Game 2 before a fielding blunder by the Razorbacks gave Oregon State a second life, which it took advantage of en route to the program's third CWS title.
June 18: John Olson, and Mary Olson, of Joslyn, Missouri, take cover under ponchos during a rain delay at the College World Series. Weather provided a huge problem in the 2018 CWS.
June 15: Cam'ron Jones checks out Omaha.com, or perhaps Snapchat, during the Huskers' Friday Night Lights camp.
June 9: Terence "Bud" Crawford celebrates his knockout victory over Jeff Horn to win the WBO welterweight title.
May 19: Fremont's Lucas Arps celebrates after winning the Class A 400-meter dash.
May 19: Lincoln Lutheran's Josie Puelz celebrates after clearing 12-2 in the Class C girls pole vault final.
May 17: Omaha Roncalli's Thomas Alitz cheers after scoring the winning run in the Class B state championship on a hit by Logan McGill with two outs in the seventh inning.
May 17: Omaha Creighton Prep's Eric Allbery, right, jumps on the dogpile as the Junior Jays celebrate their Class A state baseball title.
May 16: South Sioux City celebrates after defeating Elkhorn South in the Class B state soccer championship.
May 16: Kearney's Christian Dakan hoists the Class A state soccer trophy alongside his teammates.
May 14: Millard North celebrates its Class A state championship win against Omaha Marian by kissing the trophy.
May 14: Elkhorn celebrates its Class B championship win against Omaha Skutt.
May 9: Creighton's Will Robertson celebrates with Jack Strunc, left, after homering the fifth inning. The Jays beat UNO 10-6.
May 6: The Omaha Storm Chasers play below the newly dedicated Steve Pivovar Press Box at Werner Park.
April 21: Nebraska coach Scott Frost leads the Huskers during the Tunnel Walk on Saturday.
April 19: Awardee Dante Pettis and former Nebraska football player Johnny Rodgers, right, pictured during the Jet Award dinner.
April 19: Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne attends the Jet Award dinner.
April 18: UNO's Malik Moore pitches against Nebraska. The Mavericks knocked off the Huskers for the first time since 1997.
April 11: Creighton's Will Robertson, left, and Thomas Luevano celebrate scoring on a triple by Jack Strunc.
April 11: Elkhorn South's Mo Gohr gains control of the ball in the Metro Conference tournament.
April 3: Scott Frost directs Husker football practice.
March 31: The boy campers pose for a photo at the Athletes' Training Center Futures Camp at Iowa West Field House.
March 27: Creighton defeats Nebraska 3-1 in the first matchup of the year.
March 25: Kansas' Malik Newman drives to the basket, drawing a blocking foul on Duke's Wendell Carter. The Jayhawks went on to defeat the Blue Devils in Omaha and advance to the Final Four.
March 17: Arizona State defeats Nebraska in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
March 17: Nebraska Wesleyan celebrates winning the NCAA Division III men's basketball championship.
March 17: Creighton defeats Iowa in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
March 17: Creighton's bench cheers as Michael Emodi hits a walk-off homer off Wichita State pitcher Chandler Sanburn in the Jays' home opener.
March 12: The Creighton women's basketball team celebrates making the NCAA tournament.
March 10: Wahoo celebrates winning the Class C-1 boys basketball title.
March 10: Nebraska City Lourdes' Quinten Vasa, center, holds up the trophy with his team.
March 9: Glenwood celebrates after winning its first boys basktball state title in school history.
March 3: Scotus' Maggie Feehan celebrates after winning the Class C-1 title.
March 3: Superior celebrates a Class C-2 championship win over Ravenna.
Feb. 25: Nebraska's Duby Okeke enters Pinnacle Bank Arena with his family at his side on senior night. The Huskers went on to defeat Penn State.
Nebraska's Duby Okeke enters Pinnacle Bank Arena with his family at his side on senior night.
Feb. 24: Creighton's Marcus Foster, left, and Davion Mintz celebrate Creighton's 89-83 overtime victory over Villanova.
Feb. 24: Omaha Creighton Prep's Colin LaFave competes in the 100 fly at the state swimming meet.
Feb. 24: Lincoln Southwest's Anna Heinrich, left, and Josie Ford celebrate their first and second-place finishes in the 50 free at the state swimming meet.
Feb. 17: Kearney’s Phillip Moomey is in the top 20 of his weight class in two national polls. Only a handful of underclassmen are ranked ahead of him.
Feb. 17: Omaha Burke's Jakason Burks does a backflip after defeating Millard South's Caleb Coyle during the 106-pound Class A final at the state wrestling championships.
Jan. 28: Omaha Lancers coach and General Manager David Wilkie talks with players during first-period action.
Jan. 26: UNO's Luke Nogard skates past the referee.
Jan. 16: Nebraska's Nicea Eliely gets excited during pregame introductions as the Huskers went on to beat Iowa.
Nebraska's James Palmer celebrates a home victory over Illinois with Isaiah Roby.
Jan. 9: Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, left, talks with former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne during the Outland Trophy banquet.
Jan. 4: Omaha Burke's Shereef Mitchell brings the ball up court in the Metro holiday tournament.
Jan. 1: In his final game with Central Florida, now-Nebraska coach Scott Frost raises the Peach Bowl title after defeating Auburn.