Although their title claim was vacated due to the use of an ineligible player, the Gretna Dragons enter 2022 as the best team in the state.
In 2021, the Dragons have won 12 games, making up for their only loss (Elkhorn South) in the state quarterfinals before a 7-3 victory over Omaha Westside in the Class A championship game.
Averaging 33.6 points scored per game and 13.6 points allowed per game, the Dragons have been solid on both sides of the ball. This year, their expectations and objectives are to fill the places left by the seniors of last year.
“We’ve got a good senior squad and we’ll need some people to be ready to play at a high level,” head coach Michael Kayl said. “(We) also continue to build depth in all three phases.”
Senior quarterback Zane Flores, committed to play at Oklahoma State in 2023, returns to the starting role after throwing 232-331 for 2,885 yards, 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
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Senior wide receivers Joe Roll and Tyson Boganowski and tight end Caleb Schnell return for the Dragons. Roll was the leading receiver last year with 53 receptions for 877 yards and eight touchdowns, while Schnell was second with 33 receptions for 529 yards and two touchdowns.
Boganowski will likely see more opportunities (22 receptions for 188 yards and a touchdown) as he replaces production from TJ Silliman, Mick Huber and Brayden Chaney, who combined for 107 receptions for 1,191 yards and 14 touchdowns.
In the running game, Flores has 216 yards and 10 TDs, but the Dragons need to replace Huber, who rushed 171 times for 1,034 yards and 11 TDs. Junior Isaiah Weber has 27 carries for 127 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and is the likely replacement.
On the offensive line, the Dragons bring back starters Mason Goldman (tackle) and Bennett Stock (center), but have three roles to fill.
On defense, safety Blayke Moore, linebacker Ethan Stuhr and linemen Korver Demma and Harrison Weber are the returning starters.
Huber was also a force on defense, leading the team with 101 total tackles at linebacker. Moore was second with 74 and Stuhr third with 67. Demma led the team with seven sacks.
Including Huber, seven of the Dragons’ top ten tackles were seniors, leaving them with plenty of production to replace.
Junior placement kicker Cameron Bothwell returns after sharing kicks last year with Paul Kramer, who has since graduated. Bothwell was 20-21 in extra points and 6-10 on field goals, with a length of 36 yards.
Although Kayl isn’t looking for changes from last season, he does expect growth.
“The growth would be for this year’s seniors to take the reins and lead this team as we expect them too,” he said.
Kayl also wants to make sure the Dragons aren’t content with their past successes.
“We also have a new schedule this season, so get to know new opponents and get ready every week for that task at hand,” Kayl said.
The Dragons will open the season at Omaha Burke on Thursday, August 25 at 7 p.m.
The rest of Gretna’s schedule is at home against Omaha Central (September 2) and Creighton Prep (September 9), at Millard South (September 15) and Bellevue East (September 23), at home against Bellevue West (30 september). ), at Papio South (October 6) and at home against Omaha South (October 14) and Lincoln East (October 21).