Injuries forced Wayne State to use four quarterbacks last season.
Nate Rogers caught at least one touchdown pass from every one of them.
The big-play threat caught touchdown passes in nine of Wayne’s 11 games last season, finishing with 44 catches for 577 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Rogers is back for his senior season, which begins at 6 p.m. Thursday when the Wildcats host No. 21 Winona State. Rogers, who also caught 12 touchdown passes as a sophomore, needs one TD reception to become the school’s career leader.
“He’s just a phenomenal athlete. He just does things you don’t see anywhere else,” Wayne coach Dan McLaughlin said. “Just a really special kid to watch play with his ball skills and overall athleticism.”
Rogers was all-state in football and basketball at South Sioux City. He still holds the NSAA Class B record for receiving yards in a game with 311, set in 2012.
McLaughlin said in addition to Rogers’ 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame, he has great hands and a great vertical jump.
“He can get his body in really strange positions and still catch the ball,” McLaughlin said. “He was double-teamed in almost every game last year, but he’s just a tough cover. If it’s in the vicinity, he’ll catch it. And he can run, too.”
Rogers caught touchdown passes from Aaron Bleil in the final two games last season. Bleil, who was Wayne’s third-string quarterback last season, will start this year. Bleil completed 46.2 percent of his passes for 674 yards last year.
“They worked together over the summer,” McLaughlin said of Rogers and Bleil. “They seem to have developed a good chemistry.”
With three starters back on offense, Rogers will be a focal point for defenses. That starts with Winona State, which featured one of the top units in Division II last season, when it went 10-2. Winona was sixth in scoring defense (14.6 points per game) and intercepted 24 passes.
McLaughlin graduated 21 seniors from last year’s 6-5 squad, but is optimistic about this season.
“I really like our team, we’re just really young,” he said.
Thursday's other midlands games
Missouri Southern at UNK, 7 p.m.: Coming off a 3-8 season, UNK returns its entire starting offensive line but will count on new skill-position players. Alex McGinnis takes over as starting QB while running back Luke Quinn, who had nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards in 2016, is back after missing last year with an injury. The Lopers beat the Lions 16-6 last season, but Southern has new offensive and defensive coordinators.
Missouri Western at Northwest Missouri State, 7 p.m.: Elkhorn South graduate Braden Wright, a redshirt freshman, edged sophomore Jadyn Kowalski, a Bellevue West grad, to for the starting QB job for the fifth-ranked Bearcats. Northwest Missouri led Division II in scoring defense (9.3 points per game) and total defense (212.8 yards) last season. Western went 4-7 a year ago, losing its last five.
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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.
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: 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.