Class B will draw plenty of attention this year. Several two-way athletes will return, and top players are receiving a lot of attention on the recruiting trail.
Last season, Aurora churned out Austin Allen, who will play on Saturdays for the Huskers.
This year, fans will be able to see Beatrice tight end Cameron Jurgens, who also will play at Memorial Stadium in the coming years.
Many teams in Class B face more questions than they have answers, including how to replace offensive standouts. But don’t confuse that for a lack of talent this fall.
No. 10 Scottsbluff, 8-2
Returning starters: TE Garrett Nelson (Jr.), OL Luke Ferguson (Sr.), OL Elijah Salinas (Sr.), QB Noah Bruner (Sr.), DB Keegan Reifschneider (Jr.), LB Jasiya DeOllos (So.), DB Chris Busby (Jr.), K Eli DeLosSantos (Sr.), DL Jordan Hort (Jr.), LB Graham Robbins (Sr.)
Player to watch: Quarterback Noah Bruner continues to make strides, according to coach Joe Benson. While his passing numbers were low during his junior campaign, Bruner has capable legs. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and made seven total touchdowns. He’ll be assuming more reps this season as his coach describes him as a smart and competitive player.
Key departure: A major piece of the Bearcats’ offense is gone as running back Max Mason graduated. Mason carried most of the offensive burden, running for 1,758 yards and 32 touchdowns. It will be a major task to replace the All-Class B selection’s production.
No. 9 Columbus, 7-3
Returning starters: QB/DB Michael Koch (Sr.), RB/DB Caleb Esch (Sr.), TE/DE Cameron Menke (Sr.), OL Jordan Troutman (Sr.), OL Garrett Krumland (Sr.), OL/DL Cameron Barnes (Sr.), DB Nathan Slusarski (Sr.), LB Juan Leon (Sr.)
Player to watch: Quarterback Michael Koch, who was a Class B honorable mention, is a two-way athlete for the Discoverers. On the offensive side of the ball last season, Koch passed for 1,166 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 576 yards and three touchdowns. As a defensive back, he grabbed five interceptions, thanks to his explosiveness and great instincts, according to coach Craig Williams. Standing at 6-foot-4, Koch’s size and speed will continue to be an advantage.
Key departure: Running back Colton Wolfe, who is now a wrestler for the Huskers, made a huge impact on the gridiron. Last season, Wolfe ran for more than 1,000 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also made 68 total tackles on the defensive side of the ball.
No. 8 Beatrice, 8-3
Returning starters: TE/LB Cameron Jurgens (Sr.), WR/DB Dillon Buss (Sr.), RB/S Colton Gronewold (Sr.), OT/DE David Duncan (Sr.), OL/DL Jerad Humble (Sr.)
Player to watch: It’s safe to say everyone will be watching tight end Cameron Jurgens, the first commit in Nebraska’s 2018 recruiting class. Jurgens is one of the top tight ends in the country and the top overall prospect in the state of Nebraska. He made 23 receptions for 286 yards and three touchdowns last season. As a linebacker, he picked up an All-Class B selection by accumulating 123 tackles. Expect opponents to game plan around Jurgens.
Key departure: For the third year in a row, the Orangemen will have a new quarterback. Last season, Cooper Blum took over for Alex Cromer, who is now at South Dakota. Blum totaled 16 touchdowns and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,625 yards. This season, Beatrice hopes senior Trevor Schmale smoothly steps into the role the way his predecessors did.
No. 7 Elkhorn, 7-3
Championships: B/2011, B/1999, B/1996, B/1992, B/1989
Returning starters: RB/LB Ram Gastali (Sr.), DL AJ Hagemann (Sr.), OT/DT Grant Kwapniowski (Sr.), WR/DE Bret Lange (Sr.), RB/DB Jacob Pickering (Sr.), FB/LB Josh Schmutz (Sr.), LB Logan Spanel (Sr.), DB Cole Alfrey (Sr.)
Player to watch: A threat on both sides of the ball, Bret Lange has been productive at slot receiver and on the defensive line.
“(He’s) a gifted athlete that can run and catch the ball,” Elkhorn coach Mark Wortman said. “Also a great blocker on offense and pass rusher on defense.”
ange made 31 receptions for 453 yards in 2016. He’s also a part of a defense that will be returning eight starters.
Key departure: Trey Sachs earned All-Class B honorable mention accolades by rushing for 1,080 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2016. He’ll be playing at Division II Southwest Minnesota State this fall. Sachs was a part of a large senior class as only two starters are returning for Elkhorn’s offense.
No. 6 Aurora, 8-3
Championships: B/2009, B/2008
Returning starters: RB Cal Narber (Sr.), WR Caden Schuster (Sr.), WR Cade Reichardt (Jr.)
Player to watch: Coach Kyle Peterson acknowledged he has a young team and it’s good for the Huskies that running back Cal Narber will lead the charge. Narber, the only returning two-way starter, made 61 tackles and started to get more experience at running back in 2016.
Key departure: While Austin Allen has graduated, the team will also miss having defensive back and running back Presten Dibbern. Defensively, Dibbern had a knack for forcing turnovers, but his production in the running game will be sorely missed, too. During his junior and senior seasons, Dibbern combined to rush for 2,523 yards and 34 touchdowns.
No. 5 Norris, 8-3
Returning starters: TE/DE Bryce Stai (Sr.), RB/DB Austin Schultz (Sr.), OL/DL Gus Woeppel (Sr.), QB/DB Drew Reetz (Jr.), RB/LB Hayden Brock (Jr.)
Player to watch: Running back Austin Schultz will assume the similar responsibility after rushing for 1,622 yards and 22 touchdowns last season. He also serves as a defensive back and punter for the Titans. Norris coach Jim Jacobsen said he’s “one of the very best we have ever seen. The best we have ever coached.” Schultz was an All-Class B selection last season.
Key departure: Last season, Norris had a solid 1-2 punch between Schultz and Brady Zabel. Zabel rushed for 1,087 yards and 10 touchdowns, while adding 120 tackles on defense.