After a two-year absence, the Chadron High School football team is back in the Class C-1 state playoffs and will be hosting the Wayne Blue Devils at 2 p.m. Friday at Cardinal Field.
The Cardinals had already earned a playoff berth prior to defeating Chase County 28-6 on Friday night at Imperial, but the victory sealed a home game in the opening round.
Wayne isn’t a perennial power, but plays a tough schedule. The Cards are 8-1 and the Blue Devils 6-3 after defeating defending Class C-1 state champion O’Neill 32-8 on Friday night.
This will be the Cardinals’ 45th playoff game dating back to 1977—40 years ago. They missed out on the playoff the past two years, but before that had qualified 19 of the previous 20 years with 2002 the exception.
Chadron’s state playoff record is 16-28.
This is just the 11th year Wayne has reached the playoffs, but it’s the eighth this century. The Blue Devils’ only playoff win was in 1983, the first time they qualified. They edged Crete 13-10 in the first round and lost to Aurora 9-7 in the second round. Since then, Wayne has always had its season ended in the opening round.
The Cardinals are seeded No. 5 among the 16 C-1 playoff teams. Wayne is the No. 12 seed.
The Blue Devils opened this season with five straight victories, defeating Columbus Scotus 43-33, Boone Central/Newman Grove 34-30, Arlington 30-12, David City 47-7 and Madison 48-6.
Boone Central finished the regular season at 7-2 and is the No. 6 seed in the playoffs, but the four remaining teams that Wayne defeated during its winning streak had a combined 7-32 record.
After the 5-0 start, the Devils lost three games, falling to Pierce 50-34, West Point-Beemer 32-28 and Norfolk Catholic 35-0. Those teams have a combined 22-6 record with Norfolk Catholic 9-0, West Point-Beemer 8-1 and Pierce 5-4. All three are in the playoffs with Norfolk Catholic the top seed.
O’Neill was just 3-6 this year after going 13-0 last season.
Wayne, which was 3-7 last fall, has lots of size up front. Linemen include seniors Hunter Jorgensen, 6-4, 245; Justin Dean, 6-0, 245; and Berto Vergara, 5-8, 190; and junior Kendel Kneifl, 6-2, 270. Senior tight end Zane Jackson is 6-1, 215.
The quarterback is senior Beau Bowers, listed at 6-0, 160, and an all-district choice last season when he threw for 1,144 yards. The team’s running back include senior Mason Lee, 6-2, 170, and Juan Vergara, a 140-pound scatback.
Like Chadron, which lost senior tight end Sam Rischling to a knee injury about a month ago, the Devils are without their top receiver, Ryan Jaixen, who suffered a broken collarbone two weeks ago.
Although upset by Gering in the fourth game, this has been an excellent season for the Cardinals. They have outscored their nine foes by a 246-75 margin and averaged almost 300 yards of offense. They have run for exactly 1,300 yards and thrown for 1,376.
Quarterback Coy Bila has completed 126 of 199 passes for 1,283 yards and 13 touchdowns while being intercepted just twice. With Rischling sidelined after catching 25 passes for 256 yards, the receiving leader is Brayden Richardson with 35 receptions for 427 yards and 4 TDs.
After rushing for 662 yards the last four games, senior tailback Logan Tiensvold has carried 159 times for 957 yards, an average of 6.0 yards, this fall.
The Cardinals’ coaches give lots of credit for the team’s improvement to the linemen and a tighter defense. The nine opponents have been limited to 1,908 yards, an average of just 212 per game.
The tackle leader is junior linebacker Clark Riesen with 88, 52 of them solos. Senior Jeff Cerny has 74 tackles, including 33 that are unassisted. Another junior, Dan Dunbar, has 52 and senior Lane Jersild 50.
Junior Jake Lemmon has picked off four passes and Jersild and Richardson two apiece.
The winner of the Chadron-Wayne clash will meet the winner of the Wahoo-Kearney Catholic game in the second round on Friday, Nov. 3. Wahoo is 8-1 and the No. 4 seed. Kearney Catholic is 7-2 and the 13th seed.