Who to Watch for in Nebraska’s High School Football Playoffs

The 2019 high school football season in Nebraska’s Class A has been wild. Eight teams finished the season 7-2 or better. The two undefeated teams — Millard West and Bellevue West— have won all of their games by at least 10 points. The playoffs in 2019 should be equally as entertaining as the regular season, with several high-powered potential match-ups throughout the proceedings.

First, here’s an explanation of how teams make the playoffs in Class A.

The class is divided into six districts. The top two teams in each district gain automatic berths into the playoffs, regardless of standing in the overall playoff rankings. Four teams finishing outside the top two in their respective districts are awarded wild card berths, based on playoff rankings.

The playoff rankings are determined by a points system. Teams get points based on results versus competition. Opponents are classified by their record and assigned a quadrant. A win against a quadrant 1 opponent nets 50 points, while a loss to a quadrant 4 opponent nets only 27 points. Each team’s total points are averaged to give them a score.

Here’s a look at the Omaha Metro teams to watch for when the playoffs begin.

BELLEVUE WEST

First up, we look at the state’s most prolific offense in Bellevue West. They’re the consensus #1 team in Class A, but the schedule didn’t lend itself to racking up playoff points. The Thunderbirds have played only two teams from quadrant 2 and none from the top tier. They’ve done the necessary, however. Bellevue West has scored 36 or more points in every contest — and cracked 50 points in seven of nine — while not allowing more than 13 points in any game.

The Thunderbird offense features two D-I commits in wide receiver Xavier Betts (Nebraska) and Jeyvon Ducker  (Northern Illinois).

The pair have been nothing short of dazzling for three seasons at Bellevue West and look to pay it off with a state championship this season.


Because of the light schedule, Bellevue West find themselves seeded fourth in the playoff bracket. This sets up an unbelievable potential quarterfinal with defending-champion Omaha Burke. If the T-birds win that, it could set up a huge semifinal showdown with the other undefeated team, Millard West. The path to Lincoln is very difficult for Bellevue West.

Speaking of Millard West…

MILLARD WEST

The Wildcats have been sensational. They’ve given defending champs Omaha Burke, last year’s runner-up Grand Island, and Millard South their only losses of the season. Much like Bellevue West, Millard West hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in any game this season, albeit against tougher competition. They are the #1 seed in the playoff bracket.

Senior quarterback and Cal State Fullerton baseball commit Tristan Gomes has been the engine. He’s thrown for 12 touchdowns and rushed for another nine, all while throwing only two interceptions.

The Wildcats have a great shot at ending up in Memorial Stadium to play for a state title. They’ll likely face stiff tests from Elkhorn South, and potentially, Burke or Bellevue West before reaching the final.

OMAHA BURKE

Does it feel like nobody is talking about the defending state champions? It sounds a little crazy, but Burke has flown under the radar just a bit in 2019. The Bulldogs have rattled off seven straight wins since losing to Millard West in week two. In week one, they handed Lincoln Southeast their only loss to date.

Head coach Paul Limongi has found life after all-state running back James Burks. Burks was a huge part of the state championship last season, but his production hasn’t totally disappeared. Senior running back Jaylon Roussell has delivered more than 1,000 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in the starting role. Creighton Prep-transfer quarterback Reid Burke has been great, too. His 16-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is among the state’s best.

And let’s not forget the player who most think is the best in the 2020 class, Xavier Watts. The Notre Dame commit is having a season for the ages, following up on his stellar junior campaign. He’s caught 50 balls for 942 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 5-190-4 receiving line from the game against Fremont is just one in a slew of dominating performances.

Burke’s schedule, like Bellevue West, didn’t do them a lot of favors. They find themselves seeded fifth and on the same side of the bracket as Millard West and Bellevue West. It’s a hard road, but Burke is very talented.

MILLARD SOUTH

YurView has been on site to see Millard South twice this season, and each time, the Patriots have delivered. In week three, Millard South took apart crosstown rival Millard North 44-7 and in week eight, they took control in District 5 with big 46-23 win over Creighton Prep.

The dynamic backfield duo of TJ Urban and Isaiah Harris has tortured defenses all season. Combined, they’ve amassed more than 1,900 yards on the ground and 37 total touchdowns.

Isaiah Harris, Photo Courtesy: Jon Schriner

Offensive and defensive lineman Kohl Herbolsheimer has been a staple for head coach Andy Means each of the last four seasons. If the Patriots are to avenge the early-season loss to Millard West and win the state championship, Herbolsheimer — a recent Wyoming football commit— will be a big reason why.

Millard South is the #3 seed. Grand Island, Westside, and Lincoln Southeast are the higher-seeded teams on their side of the bracket. A potential semifinal showdown between Harris and Lincoln Southeast’s stellar running back Nick Halleen is one to watch for.

OMAHA WESTSIDE

At 7-2, it feels weird to call Westside a dark horse state title contender. But that’s just what they might be.

After a 22-17 loss to Lincoln Southeast in week three, Westside went on a run. Quadrant 2 wins over Creighton Prep and Elkhorn South have shown a high ceiling for Brett Froendt’s bunch. They’re led by a bumper crop of talented juniors.

However, in two games against Quadrant 1 opponents, the Warriors have come up short, most recently in a 41-26 loss to Millard South.

Cornerback Avante Dickerson is the state’s top player for the 2021 class and already has a laundry list of offers from the who’s who of college football. With wide receiver and defensive back Koby Bretz and quarterback Cole Payton, the Warriors have the firepower to challenge at the elite levels of Nebraska high school football, not only this season, but next year as well.

Senior linebacker and wide receiver Grant Tagge has accepted a walk-on offer from Nebraska. His play, especially on defense, might be the key to Westside’s first trip to Memorial Stadium since 2013.