COACH MALTSBURGER’S ROOM — Matt Maltsburger’s room was wide open Friday night. Didn’t have to be, because he had to look at game film. He had to quickly get over that first loss of the season.

Kenesaw 72, Heartland 40.

“Tonight was about physicality and they were more physical than us,” the Heartland coach said. “We couldn’t stop dive and iso and that is a bad recipe for disaster. They come right at you.”

Maltsberger would likely give The Rewind an F for being tardy on this assignment, and we deserve it. But, if you read on you’ll get an extra big deep dive into the playoffs which, for Maltsberger’s crew, begin on Thursday night at home against Johnson-Brock.

Last Friday, in a battle of previously unbeaten teams, both teams got a good feel for what these playoffs should be about. And, Kenesaw coach Craig Schnitzler, whose dad Bob took nine teams to the finals at Battle Creek, knew it was just what the doctored ordered. A physical game that was won with defense.

“We really got control of the line of scrimmage in the second quarter,” Schnitzler said. “That was set up by our defense, because they just had nowhere to go. We just played a lot better. (Heartland) has a high-powered offense, so I thought our defense those two quarters just played lights out.”

So, about the second and third quarters on Friday night, when Kenesaw took full advantage of a wind that seemed straight out of the Wizard of Oz.

Down 20-6, Kenesaw had nowhere to go but up. After the Huskies got touchdowns runs of 66 yards from Hayes Oswald and 62 and 22 for Lane Huebert, they could muster no offense moving into the wind.

The Blue Devils countered with nine straight touchdowns, while Heartland only had 23 yards of total offense and one first down in the middle two quarters. Their lone touchdown came when Huebert returned a kick for a touchdown with 3:11 left before halftime.

But, for Maltsberger, class was in session the whole time.

“We talked about after the game that sometimes in losses and failure you learn more about yourself and your character,” Maltsberger said. “Maybe that taste of defeat tonight will linger in their gut a little bit.

“We always talk with our kids about being successful and that the score doesn’t matter. This should refocus us and I plan using this over the next few weeks because we think we can make a push in the playoffs.”

Yes, it’s that time of the year. The Rewind is ready, even if we are bit late.

Let’s Rewind

Class A | Pius shakes playoffs, stuns North
Class A | Thunderbirds get late stop, beat Burke
Class A | Millard West holds off Links

Class B | THURSDAY | Dragons end Storm streak
Class B | York grinds out win over Northwest

Class C-1 | Wahoo wins defensive cross-town battle

Playoff Preview

The next few weeks should be exciting to watch play out, but the Rewind will take a chance and put some pics out there for the world to see. What the heck, right?

In Class A, it’s funny how the top-two defenses (Kearney and Millard West) have risen to the top of the rankings. The Bearcats have yet to give up 20 points this year and ended Millard North’s shutout streak earlier in the year when they blanked the tenth-seed 42-0. Milard West comes in off a 28-17 win over Lincoln High, likely the most potent offense in Class A.

The picks: Kearney over Bellevue West in the semis (after getting by third-ranked Westside in the quarters). Millard West over Omaha North in the other semifinal. And, the Wildcats over Kearney in a Memorial Stadium classic in late November for the title. The upset? Grand Island over Creighton Prep. The bracket.

In Class B, Gretna and Elkhorn South have been the odds on favorites for most of the year and you’d be silly to pick against either come November. Both should easily advance to the semifinals with the South opponent being third-ranked York. Gretna should face either Skutt or McCook and we give a slight edge to the Bison with the return of Zach Schlager.

The picks: Gretna over McCook in the semis. And, Elkhorn South over York in a much closer game than the 48-14 opener. They Dukes have given up double-digit points just three times since then. Elkhorn South takes care of the ball this time and hands Gretna a piece of revenge in the finals. The upset? Northwest enacts revenge on Columbus for a 48-30 regular season loss. The bracket.

Class C-1 may be the most intriguing of all the classes with firepower riddled through the bracket. The top-side has to be navigated by top-ranked Norfolk Catholic, preseason No. 1 and No. 4 Aquinas and No. 3 Wahoo. NC and Aquinas (who is the ninth-seed after a loss to Wahoo) could meet in the second round, in David City. Some reward for the top-seeded Knights.  

The picks: A tough spot here, but we’ll go with the top-seed, their coach (all time wins leader Jeff Bellar) and the running back tandem of Dylan Kautz and Evan Smith to advance over Aquinas and Wahoo to the finals. On the other side, we’ll take a flyer on Boone Central/Newman Grove and do-everything quarterback Dylan Gentrup. They edge Boys Town (who had been scored on just five times, but played only one playoff team) in the quarters and Fairbury in the semifinals. The upset? Wayne goes to Chadron and comes back with a win. The bracket.

The northeast Nebraska powers generally rise to the top of Class C-2 and 2017 seems like it could shake out that way as well. Ponca, the top-seed, is certainly the most battle tested but has played one-score games with playoff teams Battle Creek and Oakland-Craig after also beating Hartington Cedar Catholic 20-0 last week. Does the Indian hoops title in March give them more confidence as well. We think so. But don’t forget Centennial, either.

The picks: Ponca survives to the semifinals by winning at Battle Creek for the second time this season and we’ll take Yutan to reveal some more playoff magic in getting to the semifinals again. On the bottom side, third-ranked Arcadia-Loup City is injured but battle-tested while the winner over Centennial, HCC goes to the final. We’ll take Centennial to put to rest last year’s first round disappointment with a win over Ponca in the final. The upset? We’ll take Sutton to knock off Valentine. The bracket.

The eight-man ranks are nearly impossible to pick, but we’ll give it a shot. In Class D-1, Creighton has been dominant nearly all season including a 50-37 win over West Holt which is the top-seed in the west bracket. Could their be a rematch in Lincoln? Possibly.  

The picks: Creighton rolls their way to the semifinals and faces Howells-Dodge and all seems right in the world again. On the other side, we’ll take South Loup to fend off upset-minded Perkins County who erases last year’s playoff heartbreak with a second-round upset of West Holt. Creighton beats South Loup in the final. The bracket.

In Class D-2, traditional powers seem the clear favorites, on both sides of the bracket where five unbeaten teams remain. The picks: We’ll take two to the semifinals in the west (top-seeded Mullen and third-seeded Twin Loup) and in the east we’ll go with top-ranked BDS and we’ll predict a district final rematch with Falls City Sacred Heart in the other semifinal. BDS clips Mullen in the state final. The bracket.

We won’t offer much up for six-man, given the reshuffling of the bracket after round one, but we’ll offer two words. Riverside. Harvard. Can the Chargers make it four straight titles before moving to 8-man next year? We’ll say yes and hope we get to see a 6-man, Kearney High doubleheader on November 10th.

The Power of High School Sports

We are reminded in a set of powerful tweets the impact and lasting lessons that are provided by high school sports. On Friday night, the Schuyler football seniors one the first (and last) game of their high school career, 21-18 over South Sioux City. It ended a 42-game losing streak. Don’t think it didn’t mean anything.

One of the many to congratulate them on Twitter. An alum. A national champion. An NFL players. Kyle Emanuel knows all too well the impact that Schuyler had on him.

In Kearney on Friday, Isaac Anthony didn’t beat any finishers in the Class A cross country race. The Papillion-LaVista South senior suffered cramps in his leg that nearly knocked him out of the race. But, he refuse to give up, grinding, walking, rolling his way up the final hill to receive a finishing time in his last high school race. Yeah, Isaac Anthony didn’t beat anyone, but he was a champion on Friday. A champion for finishing. And a state champion with his Titan teammates.

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