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July 11, 2012
Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Like most states in the country, Nebraska's best high school football teams are concentrated to the metropolitan areas.
Unlike most metropolitan areas in the country, Omaha and Lincoln are not bustling with elite level high school football players or teams. All of the preseason Top 10 teams are located within a few miles of the two cities, but for the second straight year, the state will not have a team represented in the initial RivalsHigh 100 when the rankings are released on July 23.
Lincoln claims the top spot with Southeast High. It also has Southwest and North Star among the best teams in the state.
Within Omaha, two teams are among the Top 10 in Burke and Central.
Bob Jensen, who has published Huskerland Prep Report weekly magazine since 1990 and HuskerlandPreps.com, said that part of the problem with ranking the teams nationally is that many have not separated themselves locally.
"We have a couple of teams which could merit RivalsHigh 100 consideration," he said. "But I also believe there is great balance among those top four or five teams."
Jensen has ranked defending Class A champion Lincoln Southeast as the top team in the state entering the year and believes that having the best player in the state goes a long way.
"Junior lineman D.J. Foster is the best player in the state," Jensen said. "And they have great skill players returning."
With that top billing comes those teams that are not too far behind.
"Millard North returns Class A's leading rusher in quarterback Isaac Aakre, Millard South has some great linemen, Papillion-LaVista will be able to score points on any team and Lincoln Southwest and Millard West have good, young talent on their rosters," Jensen said. "It will be a gauntlet for whichever team wins Class A."
If one of those teams are able to run the table and end the season an undefeated state champion, then there is the likelihood that that team will be rewarded with a placement in the more important final RivalsHigh 100.
The last three teams to be nationally ranked from the state are all within the Top 10 preseason rankings for Nebraska: Millard South was ranked No. 91 in 2010, Millard South ended 2009 at No. 93, and Millard West finished 2008 ranked No. 95.
Sean Callahan, who has published HuskerOnline.com since 2003 and was named the 2006 and 2007 Nebraska Sports Writer of the Year, believes that Lincoln Southeast is a team that could gain quick entry into the national rankings. He estimates that the defending champs could work into the rankings in the No. 80-100 range.
"They are the defending state champs in Class A," Callahan said. "They return nearly their entire team and probably warrant a spot."
Jensen feels that the lack of out-of-state play is holding the perception of Nebraska back.
"I feel like our best teams could certainly compete with the large-class teams from surrounding states," he said. "I am not sure why our teams don't schedule out-of-state games, but that is the reality."
The best players in the state have fared well when lined up against the best players from other states.
Recently, Lincoln Southwest linebacker Josh Banderas competed in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta and proved his merits.
Banderas said that the teams, like the players, in the state could compete with other top teams.
"Nebraska probably doesn't have the same amount of great teams as Texas or Florida, but our best could play with their teams," he said. "We don't really get to go out and show it but I think we can play."
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