LINCOLN – Two teams with a history of postseason disappointment will have a chance to exorcise some ghosts on Nov. 26th inside Memorial Stadium in the Class C-1 state championship game.
The Wahoo Warriors have seen their last two seasons end with losses to the eventual Class C-1 champs.
The Pierce Bluejays who haven’t won a state championship in more than a decade, appeared destined to play in the Class C-1 final last season until they were upset 23-21 by Bishop Neumann in the quarterfinals.
Many players off of both teams returned this season after playing major roles a season ago.
Wahoo Coach Chad Fox, an 18-year veteran on the Warrior sideline takes a career record of 128-53 record into next week’s championship game. He has led the Warriors to 17 playoff wins in 31 games.
Fox and the Warriors are 32-4 in their last 36 games and the win over Wayne last week put Wahoo into their first ever state championship game.
“We’ve done something here that has never happened before. Pretty special. We have a great group of kids. Getting to play in the championship is something that these guys have talked about since the spring and realizing that dream is pretty awesome,” Fox said.
This year’s team is the most complete team Fox has had in his 18 years at the school and they have played at a championship caliber all season.
Wahoo has outscored their 12 opponents 574-54. They have recorded five shutouts and no team has scored more than 14 points against the Warriors all season.
The 21-7 victory over Wayne was the closest any team has come to Wahoo this season.
The Warriors are averaging 47.8 points a game on the strength of a power run game.
Wahoo has rushed for 3,410 and 53 touchdowns this year. The Warriors average 284 yards per game and 7.36 yards per rush.
All-State senior, and future Cornhusker. Trevin Luben has led the way on the ground with 1,868 yards and 36 touchdowns on 242 carries.
Sophomore Colin Ludvik has added 923 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 104 carries.
Luben attributes his success and the success of the run game to the best offensive line in C-1.
“All of the credit goes to those guys. They open up huge holes and make my job easy,” Luben stated.
Seniors Callen Phillips, Gunnar Vanak, Evan Divis and Brandon Swahn and junior Brody Specht start along the offensive line for Wahoo, but as many as 10 players have played significant snaps this season.
“We have a lot of big, strong athletic kids up front who can play for us on Friday night’s. That’s been a huge advantage for us,” Fox added.
Those players are entrusted to protect senior quarterback Thomas Waido in the pass game.
Waido has completed 83 of 128 through the air for 969 yards and 11 touchdowns against just three interceptions.
Junior Cooper Hancock leads the team with 27 catches. Senior Peyten Walling leads the team with 256 yards receiving and six TD receptions.
The Warrior defense has been the stingiest in all of 11-man football this season.
The Wahoo stop unit has allowed just 4.5 points a game and 116 yards a game through 12 games.
The Warriors have allowed just 542 yards rushing on 363 carries in 12 games.
Senior Kole Bordovsky has put together an all-state season from his linebacker spot while leading Wahoo with 149 tackles, including 10 behind the line of scrimmage.
Junior Grant Kolterman has been his partner in crime against opposing offenses while filling up the stat sheet.
Kolterman has piled up 103 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, four fumble recoveries, four forced fumbles, an interception and two blocked kicks.
Phillips, Swahn, Vanek and senior Kalon Cooper have combined for more than 200 tackles and more importantly keep offensive linemen off of Kolterman and Bordovsky, freeing them up to make plays.
Hancock, Waido and Luben have combined for seven interceptions.
Senior Jesus Zaragoza is one of Class C-1’s best kickers. He has converted on six of his eight field goal attempts and is 70-of-73 on extra points. 24 of his 94 kickoffs have ended up in the end zone.
The Bluejays like the Warriors have been dominant this season.
They have scored a Class C-1 best 593 points in 12 games and have given up just 151.
The Pierce offense averages 49.4 points a game and the defense gives up almost 13 a game.
The Bluejays return to the championship game for the first time since 2010 when they lost to Norfolk Catholic.
They won back-to-back championships in 2007 and 2008.
The Bluejays boast the top rush offense in the state and went over the 5,000 yard mark in their 54-14 win over Adams Central last week.
The Bluejays have rushed for 5,187 yards and 71 touchdowns through 12 games.
Seniors Brett Tinker and Carson Oestreich have both went over the 1,000 yard mark. Tinker has rushed for more than 1,400 yards and 25 touchdowns. Oestreich has gone over 1,500 yards on the season and has rushed for 19 touchdowns.
The Pierce offense has improved since the return of injured quarterback Dalton Freeman.
Freeman missed five games, but has been effective since his return.
He has thrown for 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions this season. He has also rushed for more than 600 yards and seven scores.
“We know they like to run the football. It’s no secret and they are really, really good at it. They have a tremendous program. Coach Brahmer does a great job,” said Fox.
Kickoff is set for 10:15 a.m. next Tuesday on Tom Osborne Field inside Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.