With the start of a new season it's time for me to wreck the hopes of several teams around the state by picking them to win their games. We like to call this exercise the Crystal Ball.
There are some great openers - again, any game played on Opening Night is great, but stay with me - among them our Huskerland Prep Report game of the year, Beatrice at Omaha Skutt. (I agree, seems sort of early for the game of the year but, again, stay with me...)
Omaha Skutt is the defending Class B champion, a gold standard program which has several of last year's playmakers back. Beatrice will have the home field advantage and will counter with what stacks up as the best offensive line in Class B and a powerful running back in senior Jessup Workman.
Skutt is the favorite in this game, partly due to its returning experience partly as a tip of the cap to a defending champ, but it seems like Beatrice wants to make this a bit of a statement game...Beatrice 18, Skutt 14.
* Over the offseason I heard more about Columbus Scotus than any other team in the state. Lots of athletes, lots of speed, domination of games at the junior high and JV level. A storm is brewing at Scotus, that's the consensus.
We will all find out pretty much right away about the Shamrocks as tonight they travel to face preseason No. 1 Boone Central/Newman Grove.
Boone has the biggest playmaker in Class C-1 in senior QB Wyatt Mazour and a big, powerful line that will perhaps won't be as deep as last year but still feature some excellent talent. The question is, can Boone find a way to slow down speedy Scotus. Probably, though it might not be easy at all...Boone 31, Scotus 21.
Biggest eight-man game of the opening weekend will feature defending Class D-1 state champion Exeter-Milligan at Kenesaw in a battle of Class D-2 top ten teams.
Like most champion teams Exeter-Milligan took some mighty hits at graduation but returns some outstanding veterans, none of them better than senior all-stater Kyle Jensen, who moves to QB where he will be dynamite. Kenesaw suffered through a miserable 2013, a season riddled by injury and defection, but with both Schnitzlers (Austin's the senior, Preston's the junior) back in the lineup it will be a different story in 2014.
Just maybe not tonight. In a mild upset...Exeter-Milligan 28, Kenesaw 26.
Great as those games figure to be it is still only one of several headliners tonight. Let's take a stab at picking some (uh, more?) winners...
Millard West at Omaha North. This is a game North will win, and maybe easily. Two reasons = North is very good, West will play its best football late in the year...North 35, Millard West 14.
Omaha Westside at Bellevue West. Defending state runner-up Westside will count on some talented youngsters this season, which will probably equate with late season success. Bellevue West will come out firing and probably scorch the young Westside "D"...Bellevue West 38, Omaha Westside 21.
Papillion-LaVista South at Omaha Burke. You know Burke is going to play smash mouth football - on both sides of scrimmage - but Papio South has that same game plan in mind and this shapes up as a brutish battle...Papio South 21, Omaha Burke 14.
Kearney at Grand Island. On paper I like Grand Island, even with all those holes to fill, but Kearney is just so athletic. Upsets are not rare in this series...Grand Island 20, Kearney 16.
Chadron at Sidney. Sidney should win the game but this is a chance to say watch out for Chadron, which seems poised for a big season...Sidney 28, Chadron 14.
Crete at Aurora. A great rivalry game where defenses should rule...Aurora 17, Crete 14.
Norris at York. Defending state runner-up York still has some playmakers in the lineup while Norris will bank on its program's depth after losing all but three starters...York 28, Norris 14.
Holdrege at Gothenburg. Much is expected of Gothenburg - three times in a row a state playoff quarterfinalist - while there has been much buzz about Holdrege dropping from Class B to Class C-1. Back to the Southwest Conference future...Gothenburg 31, Holdrege 14.
Syracuse at Bishop Neumann. Both teams suffered key graduation losses and Neumann has a championship pedigree but we like the Rockets to grab a big opening win...Syracuse 16, Neumann 14.
Archbishop Bergan at Oakland-Craig. Bergan is preseason No. 1 and has a great arsenal of offensive weapons. Can Oakland-Craig find a way to muzzle the Knights?...Bergan 32, Oakland-Craig 22.
Hartington Cedar Catholic at Aquinas. By late November we will find this game is good enough to be played again at Memorial Stadium. Call it an opening upset...Aquinas 21, Cedar 18.
North Platte St. Pat's at Doniphan-Trumbull. Defending champion D-T has KO'd St. Pat's in each of the past two playoffs. Could be payback is on the menu tonight...St. Pat's 24, Doniphan-Trumbull 16.
North Andrew, Missouri at Falls City Sacred Heart. Nebraska's defending Class D-2 state champion tackles a Missouri powerhouse. Call it a TFL...Sacred Heart 30, North Andrew 20.