One thing that was perfectly evident early on in watching Kearney Catholic football this season was that this wasn’t a team punching above its weight class simply because of who it had playing quarterback. Heinrich Haarberg, a 6-foot-5 thrower with a cannon for an arm, is committed to play his college ball at Nebraska next season, and he drew attention accordingly all throughout the year.
But there was plenty of talent at other key positions as well. Notably, the defense at the end of the season went 14 straight quarters without allowing a single point, led by Star linebackers Logan O’Brien and Tate Florell. The senior class was a strong one across the board. The Stars had a number of juniors, though, starting and playing key roles for the team all year.
With their season coming to a close last weekend—a 34-29 loss to Adams Central in the Class C1 semifinals—I asked Kearney Catholic head coach Rashawn Harvey for scouting reports on a few of those juniors who will return in 2021 with even bigger roles.
Consider these local kids to keep an eye on next year.
WR/QB/S/LB Brett Mahony (6-foot-3, 210 pounds)
Coach’s Take: “Everyone’s gonna know who Brett is, especially on the basketball side, but I think football-wise Brett is definitely increasing his stock and making people more aware of him. He’s a threat and will continue to be a threat going into his senior year.
“He will transition to being our starting quarterback going into the 2021 season. We’ll get Brett lots of reps and get him up to speed. He didn’t get a lot of reps at quarterback this year because Heinrich was doing a great job, was healthy 100% of the season. Brett will transition and be our top quarterback.
“Defensively, we’ll look at Brett either staying at free safety or he might play some linebacker. He’s played linebacker his freshman year, a little bit his sophomore year. When I transitioned to that 3-4 we put him back at the safety position.
“He will continue to play defense. I think he’ll be one of those guys that will be recruited for football and basketball because of his size and his athleticism.”
Mahony has done a lot of everything for the Stars. He started at wideout and safety this season and led the team in receiving with over 400 yards. Mahony was Haarberg’s red zone target often, a big-play guy to whom Haarberg could throw up a jump ball for. Mahony averaged 17 yards a catch and hauled in three scores.
Defensively, he had 44 tackles and a sack, four interceptions and three pass breakups, and two fumble recoveries.
He was a playmaker. That much should continue as he transitions to being the team’s primary quarterback. He played very briefly at the spot this season, throwing just 12 passes. He completed four of them for 41 yards and a score.
RB/LB Riley Grieser (6-foot-1, 185)
Coach’s Take: “Riley Grieser will likely be our featured running back next year. He did a fantastic job this year filling in for Cale Conrad when we needed Riley in the game. He did a better job this year of taking care of the football. Showed good explosive burst, good change of direction, and he does a pretty good job reading our inside-outside zone running scheme. I think he’ll be an impact player offensively.
“Defensively, I think he’ll be one of our featured inside linebackers. He got a lot of playing time this season at inside linebacker because that’s when we gave Cale Conrad his rest on defense. Riley will be a seasoned guy for us on the defensive side. We’re excited about his future and his impact going into his senior year.
“Also, the young man is dedicated to the weight room, and he does a great job of getting other guys engaged in the weight room. He takes advantage of that weight room time to get himself better. Pretty tough young man, he’ll play hockey this offseason. We’re excited about guys who do those things like that—hockey, wrestling, basketball, any other sport they get involved in.”
The junior runner had 318 yards on 50 carries this season, with three scores. Cale Conrad, a senior, was the bell cow running back. He got 20 carries a game (77 total in the last two games of the year) and rumbled for 1,295 yards.
Grieser got his shot in the backfield for a game against Minden mid-year. Conrad had to miss the game for contact tracing reasons, and Grieser carried the load: 22 runs, 120 yards, and a score.
He had 42 tackles from his linebacker spot (sixth on the team).
OL/DL Dylan Merz (6-foot-5, 210 pounds)
Coach’s Take: “Dylan will be one of our top linemen returning. He had a fantastic season this year. That kid’s been playing since his freshman year, we kinda had to throw him in there due to our depth. He has dedicated himself to the weight room, to film study, and just the overall game of football, which showed this year.
“Had a fantastic year in the blocking game and in pass protection. Great with his feet, great with his hands, good football savvy, good football knowledge. He’ll be a young man that will increase his stock. He’s about 6-5, we’re hoping he grows a little bit and we need him to put on about 15-20 pounds of muscle if possible.
“This offseason he’ll transition into basketball. He’ll also do some stuff in track. He will stay active. He’s also someone who’s dedicated himself to the weight room. We expect big things going into his senior year. We believe he’ll be one of those guys that will be recruited. He will get looks from people.”
Merz helped lead the way for an offense that averaged over 200 yards rushing and right around 35 points a game. On the other side of the ball, he had 57 tackles (fourth-most) and a sack.
OL Jake Masker (6-foot-2, 245 pounds)
Coach’s Take: “Another young man that came on this year. His dedication to the weight room, football in general… This past school year he also wrestled. I think that was a major impact on his success in football this year because he was better with his hands, better with his feet, better with that internal battle with your hands, your feet, and your hips. I think that came from his wrestling experience.
“He will be another young man that’s one of our top offensive linemen. He will be recruited. He’s getting not necessarily some looks right now, but people are talking to him right now from D1 down to obviously D2, D3. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up. Obviously, he knows the process with his brother, Matt Masker, going through that recruiting process.
“Jake Masker again will wrestle, he’ll dedicate himself to the weight room this offseason.”
OL/DL Gavin Drumheller (6-foot-2, 220 pounds)
Coach’s Take: “That kid transitioned to being our starting center this year. He’s another kid who wrestled last year, and wrestling helped him in the game of football this year. His hands, his feet, his internal drive, his will to finish blocks, I’d say wrestling was a big part of that. His dedication to the weight room, to film study, to being an offensive lineman. That’s another guy on our offensive line. We’ve got three returning offensive linemen who will be impact players on our team, that’ll be a strength of our team.”
Drumheller had 11 tackles and two sacks on the defensive side of the ball.