The 2022-23 season started on Thursday night for two teams who had a lot to replace in Lincoln East and Kearney.
The visiting Bearcats took an eight-point lead early in the fourth quarter and held onto it to secure the 14-6 victory and start the season 1-0.
Jacob Padilla has five thoughts on the grinder at Seacrest Field.
Finding a Rhythm
Kearney returned just one starter from a 4-6 team, and senior quarterback Treyven Beckman got off to a slow start in his first game behind center. He completed just two of his first seven passes for 15 yards and two interceptions.
However, Beckman settled in from there and made some nice plays throughout the rest of the evening. He didn’t produce a ton of explosive gains, but he made enough plays to keep the chains moving. Beckman completed 10 of his last 11 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown, and he also ran the ball four times for 32 yards.
Beckman bounced back from the second interception to put together a really nice drive, completed three straight passes for gains of 9, 7 and 12, then after a few runs he found Zander Reuling on a short post for a 5-yard touchdown, the first score of the game.
Friday wasn’t a great showing for the Kearney offense but there might be something there to build on with Beckman.
Hard to Replace a Legend
You never want to be the guy who replaces THE guy, but that’s what senior Harrison bestir and sophomore Jeter Worthley are attempting to do after the Spartans lost the most prolific quarterback in the state in Nate Walters to graduation (and Northern Alabama). Walters essentially was the offense for East, who played at a faster tempo than anyone else in the state because of Walters’ mastery of the offense and a stellar receiving corps.
Most of those receivers are gone along with Walters, and East is clearly still trying to find its way. Biester got the start but rotated with Worthley throughout the first half before the underclassmen took over for the rest of the game.
Unofficially, Biester went 4-for-14 for 45 yards and an interception on a Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half.
Worthley went 14-for-29 for 141 yards and also ran the ball nine times for 17 yards (though a 9-yard sack was part of that). Worthley, a Michigan baseball commit and the younger brother of new Huskers baseball commit Jalen Worthley, certainly showed some flashes with nine double-digit gains through the air and a 14-yard run on third-and-long, but he and the offense as a whole struggled to string together enough plays without a mistake to find the end zone.
Tough Day for Malachi Coleman
Malachi Coleman, the 4-star Nebraska target, is the lone returning contributor from last year’s receiving corps. He caught 17 passes for 561 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior while also producing 57 tackles including 7.5 sacks on defense.
He’s going to be a marked man for the Spartans all season and saw double- and triple-teams all night. He made just two receptions for 30 yards and took a jet sweep for a 4-yard gain. He had a couple of near-contested catches that he couldn’t come down with, including one where he high-pointed the ball with three defenders on him but couldn’t hold on as he hit the ground.
Coleman also dropped back to return a kickoff late in the game, and Kearney opted to squib-kick it instead of even risking a chance at a big play from the highly-touted athlete.
He recorded a handful of tackles on defense and had one really nice quarterback pressure where he got to Beckman just as he was releasing the ball, forcing the ball to sail harmlessly into the turf downfield and laying a nice lick on the Bearcats’ QB.
East will have to continue to find creative ways to get Coleman the ball as the season progresses, and perhaps growth at the quarterback spot will contribute to that as the season plays out.
Home Run Hitters
Friday’s game was short on fireworks (and points), but each team did produce one long touchdown.
Lincoln East went into halftime trailing 7-0, but after forcing a punt on Kearney’s first drive, Jeter handed the ball off to junior Dash Bauman, and he did the rest. Bauman beat the defense to the edge, turned the corner and lived up to his name, dashing 65 yards for a touchdown.
East struggled to establish a ground game otherwise, as the Spartans produced just 68 yards on their other 28 carries, but Bauman showed some promise with runs of 7, 4 and six yards. He also popped on defense as a linebacker.
On the other side, Kearney also struggled to generate a ground game, but one big run offset that. Early in the fourth quarter, Kearney’s Ethan Kowalek got stuffed on the first play of the drive for a loss of 2 yards. The Bearcats went right back to him, however, and he broke off a 69-yard touchdown after beating the defense to the corner and turning up the left sideline.
Specials and Flags
Little things really bit Lincoln East in a big way. The Spartans had more than double the flags of their opponent, and some of those East penalties popped up in big moments to derail otherwise promising drives. I counted seven different types if penalties including four false starts. The Spartans have a lot of things to clean up.
Special teams also played a big part in the game. First, Kearney blocked the extra point after East’s touchdown that could have tied the game at 7-all early in the second half. The Bearcats also had two phenomenal punts back-to-back, pinning the Spartans first at their 1, then at the 2. Kearney didn’t get a safety out of either one (though it was close the first time), but those two drives were essentially dead before they even began.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.