They were all meeting via Zoom back in May. The coaching staff at Kearney Catholic held unit meetings over Zoom trying to get their team prepared for the summer, but one particular session—this one with the full team—stands out in coach Rashawn Harvey’s mind now as the regular season draws to a close.
It was the day they told the team the Stars were going to be switching defenses. They’d move to a 3-4.
At the beginning of the year, one of the first things a Kearney Catholic coach told me was “speed kills,” and Kearney Catholic has an awful lot of speed. Size has been a precious commodity, but they have speed to burn, so putting an extra linebacker on the field seemed pretty logical.
Logan O’Brien, a starting linebacker for the defense and wideout for the offense, was maybe the most appreciative of the decision.
“I vividly remember him, once he realized we’d said, ‘You’re gonna be our Bandit outside linebacker,’ he said, ‘I’m going to lead the team and the state in sacks,’ once he saw our defensive scheme,” Harvey said. “That was the most excited I’ve seen him ever.”
Harvey calls O’Brien quiet. If you’re out at practice and O’Brien isn’t flying around out on the field, you won’t hear him if you don’t know him.
“He’s not a loud guy who draws attention to himself, he just goes out there and does what he needs to do,” Harvey said. “He’s very coachable, teachable, goes out there and applies himself and the young man works hard in everything that he does.”
O’Brien plays two-guard for the Kearney Catholic basketball team. He’s also on the track and baseball teams. After his senior basketball season ends, he’ll have some options to go play basketball somewhere, but he’s still sorting those out.
“People around here know him as a pretty good basketball player, but he’s a darn good football player, too,” Harvey says.
He’s got athletic savvy and spatial awareness. He’s a football guy. You hear that tossed around, usually intended as one of the best compliments one can pay to an athlete. O’Brien knows where to be to make a play and he’s gonna make that play going 100 miles an hour.
“I just wanted to be the best player I could be and help my team,” he said of his individual goals for his senior season.
The state lead for sacks? That hasn’t happened. But O’Brien does lead his team in unassisted tackles. He’s accounted for 42 solo stops in seven games. No. 12 is all over the field on Friday nights.
Harvey can’t think of a drop the young man has had yet as a receiver this season, and he’s helped spearhead a defense that’s been better than advertised.
“I honestly thought we weren’t gonna be this good,” O’Brien says of the defense. “In years past we’ve given up like 6 yards a carry. I think the change, just because we have so many athletic linebackers, really helped us out.”
Friday night against Cozad will have a district title and a likely top-four seed in the Nebraska State Playoffs on the line, but it’ll also be the last regular season home game for O’Brien and the rest of his senior class.
What he’ll remember most about Kearney Catholic is the culture there within the locker room. “It’s just such a brotherhood,” he says. Maybe that’s because the same group of guys has been together since junior high.
And it was when they all got together in eighth grade that they knew they’d have a chance to be special down the line. O’Brien didn’t have a personal goal that was larger than the team goal: they all want to win a state title.
“It’s kind of been like a thing for our class since we were eighth-graders,” he said. “We always had a good group of guys and we knew that once we got up there as the seniors we’d have a chance to make some noise. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Harvey and the rest of the coaching staff saw it, too.
“They were doing things as scout-teamers that were very evident that we’ve got some guys in that class who, if they stayed out for football, would do something special here at Kearney Catholic,” he said.
That moment is fast arriving.
Harvey asked his team the other day to raise their hands if they’d looked over every what-if scenario regarding their game Friday night. Everyone in the room had their hand up. “OK,” he said to them, “so, if you know every scenario then you know what’s at stake this week.”
And, to a man, the tone in practice has been business-like.
“They’ve looked at every message board. They’ve looked at every scenario. They know it,” Harvey said. “So we took the approach as a staff that we’re not just not gonna talk about it because they’ve been looking at it every day. We talk about it saying, ‘You guys know what’s at stake.’”
There are district title plaques lining the hallway that leads to the main foyer area in the school, but there is no state title trophy.
“They’re doing a great job working toward that goal, which is a state title,” Harvey says. “They talk about it all the time. This summer when we were able to get in our weight room in our gym we talked about being the first team to hang a banner for a football championship at Kearney Catholic.”
The offseason change in defense? This was the endgame. They want to play in Lincoln.
That’s the only way a senior ever wants to go out. Keep the ride going until the very end.