Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In Nebraska, Fans Mourn the Death of 'Out State' Football

There was a time where ‘out state’ teams from Nebraska would make a run for Class A state championship honors. Gone are those days. When Kearney won it in 2006, it may have been the last time in a long time that an ‘out state’ team hoisted the state championship trophy in Nebraska’s large-school classification.

Not so long ago, powerhouses came via Grand Island and an occasional rotating basis from the likes of Fremont, Columbus, and Norfolk. Before Kearney won it two years ago, Norfolk was the last ‘out state’ school to win a state football championship in 1994.

The year before Norfolk’s triumph, Hastings went unbeaten to win the Class A title in 1993. Hastings dropped to Class B the following season and won it again in 1994.

Columbus had a nice run in Class A in the 1990’s, winning playoffs games in 1992, 1994, 1995, and 1997. In 2000, the Discoverers lost in the Class A semifinals to eventual champion Lincoln Southeast. But Columbus has not won a playoff game since and dropped to Class B in 2008.

Fremont’s last appearance in the state championship game was in 1986 when the Tigers lost 14-0 to Omaha Creighton Prep, which was part of Creighton Prep’s run of six titles in seven years and five in a row. The Tigers have qualified for the postseason seven times since their state final appearance, winning two first round games before falling in the next round in 1996 and 1998.

Some regard Fremont’s 1970 team as one of the greatest of all-time, still owning a Class A record for single-game scoring in an 85-0 victory over Omaha Bryan that season.

Grand Island was more consistent over the years. The Islanders won Class A in 1978 and finished as the runner-up in 1987 and 1990. From when the playoffs started in 1975 through 1991, Grand Island qualified for the playoffs 14 times. In nine playoff appearances since 1995, Grand Island has won two postseason games.

Kearney has been the most successful ‘out state’ program over the past decade. Kearney won the 2006 state title over Omaha Westside and has been to the playoffs seven times over the past 10 years. According to 2008 enrollment figures, the Bearcats the 24th largest school in Nebraska. Twenty-eight schools occupy Class A. Since 2002, Kearney has been to at least the semifinals four times.

Open enrollment in suburban Omaha and Lincoln has essentially killed off ‘out state’ football. When these ‘out state’ schools drop out of Class A when Lincoln and suburban Omaha open doors on new schools, these ‘out state’ schools have to fight off private schools for championship honors.

Out of the 32 schools in Class B, four of them are private. Five out of the past 15 years, private schools have won state titles in Class B. In Class C-1, the state championship went to private schools 10 times over the past 15 years.

Six-time Class A state champion Lincoln Southeast sunk fast when Lincoln opened shiny, new Lincoln North Star and Lincoln Southwest.

Only on two occasions since the playoffs started in 1975 has a school from the Omaha Public School system won a state championship. Omaha Central owns both honors, winning titles in 1984 and 2007.

Football fans in towns such as Grand Island, Kearney, Columbus, Fremont, and Norfolk will need a herculean effort to claim a Class A title in the future.

It’s sad that ‘out state’ football is dead.

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