Lincoln, NE - There might be games featuring higher ranked teams squaring off on Friday, but North Star high school versus Lincoln Southwest has great star power to open the season in the state of Nebraska.
After finishing 9-2 in 2011, the Hawks have their eyes set on a Nebraska Class A State Championship in 2012. Southwest is led by senior four-star linebacker Josh Banderas. The Army All-American will play both ways this season and looks to improve on his triple digit tackle performance from a year ago.
“I want to be walking around with a big ring on my finger, just like the Southeast boys do,” said Banderas in July. “But ultimately this season is about having fun for me. It's about playing with guys who I have been playing with for ten years probably the last time.”
Banderas and Southwest received some major help late in the offseason, when four-star Texas high school product Christian Lacouture, a Nebraska commitment, decided to transfer to the school from College Station A&M Consolidated (5A).
“Basically, my mom is in the Army Reserve and she is a nurse that works with soldiers that come back wounded from war. She got a transfer into Omaha and so she took the spot and was planning on moving.
Christian Lacouture is now the No.1 player in the state of Nebraska
“My younger sister, who is 15 and a sophomore, was going with her and she was planning on enrolling at Lincoln Southwest. So there was a huge family decision for all of us just to come to Nebraska now.”
Lacouture instantly became the No. 1 player in the state and will play both defensive end and tight end for the Hawks.
North Star features the two-headed running attack of senior Mike Minter Jr. and junior Austin Rose. Both led their squads in rushing yards at times in 2011, with Minter picking up nearly 1200 yards on the ground. He is the son of former Husker great Mike Minter.
“We have been preparing for this pretty much the entire offseason, so we should be ready for this game,” said Rose. “When the schedule came out, I saw that game and thought it was the game I was looking forward to.
“It gets me really excited that they have great players like Banderas and Lacouture. I hope they bring it at us and we give it back.”
Opening things up for the combo is junior Matthew Dietz. A potential D-1 prospect, Dietz's brother plays at Ohio. The junior could have the task at times to try to slow down Lacouture from getting in to he backfield.
Another prospect to watch in the game is the Navigator's Noah Housh. The wide receiver is big at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, and could be a perfect walk-on candidate at Nebraska down the road.
Other games to note this weekend:
Millard West vs Lincoln Southeast – a game featuring two teams ranked inside the top five.
Millard North vs Millard South – another game featuring two top five squads.
Big Red Report Preseason Class A Power Rankings
1.) Lincoln Southeast – It's a classic case of until the defending state champion gets beat, they are not losing the top spot. While the Knights lose current Huskers Sam Cotton and Trey Foster, a handful of skill players return including quarterback Najee Jackson. With junior offensive lineman D.J. Foster (potential four-star) protecting him, he should have another great season.
2.) Millard North – The Mustangs return plenty of starters from their 2011 squad and feature future D-1 player Nick DeLuca. The linebacker/tight end has multiple offers already. They will also get Clay Fisher back in 2012, who went down to injury last year. The junior is the brother of Nebraska linebacker Sean Fisher and Iowa freshman Cole Fisher.
3.) Millard South – With a total of 16 starters returning, including quarterback Antony Cloyd, it's not unresonable to think the Patroits will improve on their 8-3 record from 2011. The team is anchored up front by Freeman Coleman on both lines, while Bryce Sosnowski is a force on the defensive end front.
4.) Papillion La-Vista – The Monoarchs feature the dynamic duo of senior wide receiver Bryce Sheard and senior running back Tyler Wrice. The two helped lead their squad to a 9-3 record in 2011 and should better that in 2012.
5.) Omaha Burke – Quarterback Zach Cook returns after throwing for over 2500 yards last year and the Bulldogs will need him to even be better in 2012, if they want to return to the Class A State Championship game. Burke lost Jordan Nelson, Mitch McCann, and Carson Collins all to graduation and all ended up walking-on with Nebraska.
6.) Millard West – The Wildcats are probably a year away from being a state championship contender, with a small senior class with no big star power leading the way, but they have good size up front.
7.) Lincoln Southwest – Lacouture's transfer bumps the Hawks up a few spots, making their defense a tough test for any squad. After seeing them practice, the offense will be young and needs experience, but the two Husker recruits alone should keep them into games.
8.) North Star – Plenty of experience back could make North Star a dangerous sleeper team down the road. Rose and Minter will be solid, but it's the guys like Housh and Dietz who could make it a special year for the Navigators.
Mike Minter Jr. hopes for a Nebraska offer down the road
9.) Omaha Central – Small, but electric running back Jackie Davis returns after rushing for close to 1500 yards last season. But we expect a small step back from their 10-2 squad a year ago.
10.) Omaha North - Quarterback Zach Martin returns without leading receiver Terry Grigsby from a year ago, but does feature one of the best tight ends in the state in Casey Sayles. Central was young last year and will benefit from loads of experience in 2011.
*** Just to note Big Red Report will be at the Lincoln Southwest vs North Star game, helping out in the radio booth on 93.7 The Ticket. ***