Several incoming Huskers bringing championship football mentality to Nebraska
This year’s high school football championship games at Memorial Stadium had a Husker flavor about them.
Ethan Piper, a Nebraska recruit, was playing in his second straight state final. His future college teammate Garrett Nelson was energizing Scottsbluff in the Class B main event.
Nick Henrich and Chris Hickman left Memorial Stadium on Nov. 19 with Class A gold medals.
Scott Frost is trying to build a winning program at Nebraska, and the football coach, now entering his second season in Lincoln, pointed to a common theme among the 23 recruits who recently signed with the Huskers.
“These guys are coming from winning programs,” Frost said. “They were winners in high school.”
Quarterback Luke McCaffrey, who will be arriving on campus next week, led perennial power Valor Christian High School to a Colorado Class 5A state championship earlier this month.
McCaffrey completed 18-of-27 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing for 72 yards on 10 attempts in the final.
Darien Chase, an incoming wide receiver, caught five passes for 126 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown, in Union’s 52-20 win against Lake Stevens in the Washington Class 4A state championship.
NU offensive line signee Bryce Benhart also was a state champion. He helped pave the way for Lakeville North High School in the Minnesota Class 6A state final in November.
Several other players were part of deep playoff runs.
Incoming offensive lineman Michael Lynn played for the Cherry Creek program that lost to McCaffrey’s team in the Colorado state final. Rahmir Johnson, a prime candidate for early playing time at NU, reached the state championship game with powerhouse Bergen Catholic.
Dedrick Mills, an NU commit, finished fourth in the NJCAA in rushing with 1,358 yards and helped get Garden City (Kansas) Community College to the junior college national championship game.
York’s Garrett Snodgrass, on a bad leg, helped lead the Dukes to the Class B state semifinals. A year earlier, he was part of York’s state championship team.
Offensive lineman Matthew Anderson was part of a Leesville team that made the Louisiana Class 4A state semifinals for the first time in 20 years. Future Husker linebacker Jackson Hannah helped guide Montgomery Bell Academy to three straight trips to the Division II-AAA state final in Tennessee.
Ty Robinson’s team (Higley) made the state semifinals in Arizona, while Quinton Newsome (North Gwinnett), Myles Farmer (Westlake) and Ronald Thompkins (Grayson) saw their high schools make deep state playoff runs in Georgia. Thompkins has been sidelined by a knee injury but is part of one of Georgia’s top prep programs.
Newsome was part of a state championship team as a junior.
“People that know how to win and expect to win, I don’t think it’s any accident that if you have a bunch of winners in your program and kids that come from winning high school programs that that’s going to lead to good things,” Frost said.
For players like Hickman and Henrich, a winning mentality was instilled over time as both players got a feel for what it’s like to build a team up.
“Coming in as a class, we knew we had one goal,” Henrich said of the Omaha Burke seniors. “We were 3-6 our freshmen year and none of us even considered transferring or anything. We said, ‘No, this is what we are and we believe in these coaches and we know we can get it done,’ and we just kept working and never lost hope.”
Now Henrich and his incoming classmates will look to take Nebraska to another level.
Of the Huskers’ 23 high school recruits, 21 played in their respective state playoffs this past fall.
“I don’t think there is one that didn’t make the playoffs or go deep into the playoffs or win championships, and I hope that’s the expectation when they get here, too, because that’s where we’re headed.” Frost said.