3 footballs grouped together on the field before the game
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska High School Football 2021 Season Preview: Checking in on Class C1 and C2

August 25, 2021

The high school football season is getting started around the state. Teams are adding final touches to their preparations for the 2021 season, while hoping for a return to business as usual after the 2020 season. I took a look at the Omaha Metro earlier this month. Let’s take a look at what’s going on with a few of the smaller schools in the state.

It was a 10-2 season in 2020 for the Class C2 Oakland-Craig Knights. Tthe team entered the offseason with a chip on its shoulder after a season that would be considered successful for most. The Knights had a great summer of workouts and more than half the team had perfect attendance in the weight room. The skill players got together and threw the ball around, which helps them get on the same page too according to quarterback Grady Gatewood.

“That’s just expected at Oakland-Craig,” Gatewood said. “We saw our older brothers do it. It’s jus been what we’ve done for as long as we can remember. Probably as long as our head coach can remember too.”

Senior running back Tavis Ewing is now a leader on the team. There isn’t much needed to rally the players to get together in the offseason. Ewing said the weight room is something the team looks forward to. He personally lifts three times a week and said it’s fun to be there encouraging teammates.

This season the team will need to replace 11 seniors that graduated. Even with less experience, the message has been the same from the seniors: continue executing on the little things. That will help the team get to their goals.

“We have to get the district championship back,” Ewing said. “I think we won it eight years in a row and last year we lost it. We want to get that back this year.”

The Platteview Trojans are coming off a tough 3-6 season in Class C1 in 2020. The Trojans lost four of their five last games of the season but that didn’t stop them from having a busy summer. They got to camp at Columbus and Boys Town.

The team also did 7-on-7 weekly at their field with 16 different teams. Team camps were also hosted at their school, which helped the team get better every day.

Tight end David Swanson said were able to try out new concepts in a lower pressure situation.

“We’re going against a lot of teams that are our level who we might play,” Swanson said. “I think it helps with quarterback to receivers wise, getting the chemistry and timing down on certain routes. Then also just like seeing other teams, how we line up with them. It’s always good to know how they look before the season.”

The Trojans were invested over the offseason and said that a number of players set new personal records for weightlifting. They also worked on getting faster as a team. The players felt like the team could make a big leap this year and they have big goals. Quarterback Jared Kuhl says kept everyone focused during the offseason.

“I think that everyone knows on our team that we could make a serious run this year,” Kuhl said. “Everyone really wants it for each other. We’re really selfless and I think that everyone wants to do it for each other.”

It’s a new day at Class C1 Nebraska City in 2021. Caleb Walker is the Pioneers’ new coach. It can be difficult to take over a program from a long-time coach as Walker is doing. He is a familiar face though, which is a benefit for all involved.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be in Nebraska City and know the kids really well,” Walker said. “I was an assistant coach for a number of years and really the transition has been great. I know the families. I know the kids. I know what we’ve got going on in the summer. I know other coaches. It’s been really nice being able to work with them and just trying to get my twist on things.”

Walker served as the Pioneers’ defensive coordinator for many years. He was grateful for the opportunity when his number was called to take over the program. Even though Walker was familiar to the players, there is a big change in the offense. Quarterback MJ Nelson is getting adjusted to the slower paced offense.

“It’s just something I got used to,” Nelson said. “I’m used to going fast, fast and I want to slow down. I’m adjusting to my best ability. I’m more of a fast-paced guy. I like to get going and now I got to slow down take a deep breath and figure out what’s going on.”

The Pioneers open their season on Aug. 27 against Schuyler in a non-district game. Nebraska City will need to be ready to play since Schuyler has already played a game this season.

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