Around the state, the NSAA State Football Playoffs began last week. Both Class D1 and D2, as well as Class A, held first-round contests on Thursday, Oct. 22, and Friday, Oct. 23 of last week. Their second-round matchups will take place Friday night across the state. At the same time, first-round action in Class B, C1, C2, and D6 will begin.
You’ll see five future Huskers kicking off their postseasons this weekend. Here’s a rundown on what to know about each of them and their teams.
QB Heinrich Haarberg, Kearney Catholic Stars, Class C1
The Stars went 7-1 this season. With a 31-0 home win over district foe Cozad last Friday, the Stars clinched a C1-7 District title to go with a No. 4 seed in the state playoffs. They’ll host 13-seed Chadron (6-2) on Friday at 2 p.m. CT.
Haarberg, a senior, helped lead the Stars through a nearly unblemished regular season, but he had lots of help. Senior running back and inside linebacker Cale Conrad ran for 773 yards and 21 touchdowns (6.8 ypc). On the other side, the defense had 20.5 sacks, 12 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. Kearney Catholic outscored opponents by a combined 214 points on the year (296-82) thanks to three shutouts. Only two teams all year had more than two drives result in points.
As he wasn’t asked to carry the offense or the team, Haarberg’s senior numbers were a little below his output as a junior. He completed 100 of his 183 passes (54.6%) for 1,446 yards. On the ground, he added 435 yards on just 70 carries. Haarberg had just three interceptions all year and produced 21 total touchdowns (14 throwing, seven rushing).
The Stars want to win a state title. They’ll have to go through Chadron first. On their side of the bracket is top overall seed Ashland-Greenwood (9-0).
Our take: Haarberg made plays when Kearney Catholic needed them this season, most notably a fourth-and-1 conversion and go-ahead touchdown with his legs in an 11-point win over Adams Central. He’s got prototypical size for a quarterback, but his quickness as a runner and his embrace of contact this year made him truly dynamic. He was hurt a bit by dropped balls, and he’s still developing, but Haarberg can be the best player on the field against anyone the Stars will face. — Derek Peterson
TE James Carnie, Norris Titans, Class B
Another No. 4 seed, this Norris team went 7-2 in the regular season with huge wins late in the year by 28, 39, and 29 points. The Titans were doused with some cold water a bit, though, in their final game of the year, a 24-0 road loss to Waverly last Friday.
Carnie is Nebraska’s most recent commit. Previously he was committed to Miami (OH), but a late surge in his recruitment saw him land interest from Iowa, Kansas State, and eventually Nebraska. When the Husker offer came in early October, Carnie pulled the trigger shortly after.
He and the Titans will host 13-seed Beatrice (4-5) on Friday at 7 p.m. CT. That game will be a rematch of the two teams; Norris took the first meeting 35-7 at home on Sept. 25.
Our take: Norris tight end James Carnie had an outstanding regular season for his senior year. He hauled in eight touchdowns by using his impressive size and speed combination. Carnie was coming back from a minor injury in the game I saw him but his play in the playoffs will be something to watch in Class B. — Greg Smith
TE AJ Rollins, Creighton Prep, Class A
Prep earned a six-seed this season and a first-round bye in the Class A bracket. After opening the year with a 42-0 loss to Omaha Westside—the No. 2 seed in the Class A playoffs—Prep rebounded nicely with wins in five of its final six games. It’s only other loss was a 24-21 defeat at the hands of Lincoln Southeast in mid-September.
In its last three games, Prep has outscored North Platte, Lincoln Northeast, and Papillion-LaVista South 119-13. The Junior Jays exploded offensively in a 67-0 win over Northeast on Oct. 9.
The Junior Jays will host 11-seed Millard North on Friday at 8 p.m. CT at Westside. A win would set up a third-round meeting with either Millard West or Millard South. Prep beat West already this season, 29-26 on Sept. 25.
Our take: Omaha Creighton Prep tight end AJ Rollins is a raw but talented prospect at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, who has seen his offensive involvement increase throughout the season. Prep has used him both in-line and split out wide, both as a blocker and a downfield target, and the Junior Jays have taken advantage of his run-after-the-catch ability as well with some quick screens. — Jacob Padilla
OL Teddy Prochazka, Elkhorn South, Class A
Following a 7-1 campaign, Elkhorn South earned a five-seed in the playoffs and a first-round bye. It’ll host 12-seed Fremont on Friday at 8 p.m. CT.
The Storm got their offense rolling a bit to close out the regular season, with point totals of 44, 41, 59, and 35 preceding a 28-21 overtime win over Kearney on Oct. 15. Prochazka, a 6-foot-8 lineman, plays a key role in their success. You don’t find many who look quite like the Nebraska pledge, and Elkhorn South uses him and the rest of their offensive line to pave the way for a run-oriented offense.
Our take: Elkhorn South offensive tackle Teddy Prochazka was a dominant force each time I saw him in action this season. He continues to add size and strength to his impressive frame making him an intriguing prospect from Greg Austin’s future group. — Greg Smith
S Koby Bretz, Omaha Westside, Class A
The Warriors were a machine this season, sprinting to an 8-0 record and a No. 2 seed in the playoffs. That’ll happen when you’re loaded with Division I talent and you score 40 points in every game, which Westside has and did. They were a terror to keep up with all year long, posting an average margin of victory of 36.5 points.
Bretz accounted for 30 tackles (21 of them unassisted), a forced fumble, a pass break-up, and an interception from his safety spot. As a receiver, he also hauled in 29 catches for 444 yards and five scores.
As a defense, the Warriors produced eight sacks, eight interceptions, eight fumble recoveries, and blocked one kick.
Following a first-round bye, they’ll play host to 15-seed Grand Island at 4 p.m. CT on Friday.
Our take: Koby Bretz is slated to play safety at Nebraska but Omaha Westside uses the 6-foot-2, 185-pound athlete all over the field. He’s the Warriors’ top receiver, he’s leading the defensive backs with 30 tackles, and he’s even returned a few kicks. — Jacob Padilla