Ryan Lagsding can hardly wait to introduce himself to Bo Ruud when Grand Island Senior High faces Lincoln Southeast on Thursday.
"Bo Ruud is a good player,” Grand Island's center said. "It would be nice to put him on his back a couple times.”
Ruud — a University of Nebraska football recruit who is a standout at fullback and linebacker — and Lagsding will be on a collision course in a key, Class A district game. Kickoff at Seacrest Field in Lincoln is 7 p.m.
"We know we're going to have to put four, darn-near perfect quarters together to have a chance to beat them,” said Grand Island coach Mark Fritch. "We think we got a chance. If we can show up ready to play for four quarters we'll see what happens at the end of the game.”
Grand Island (2-3) expects a huge challenge from fourth-ranked Southeast (4-1) even though the Knights will be without standout quarterback Nick Bahe. Bahe underwent season-ending surgery on his left shoulder and will be replaced by junior Zac Rabe.
"It's always sad to hear when a good athlete goes down,” Lagsding said. "It would be a real accomplishment to beat them if they got all their players or they're a man down. We're pretty excited to play them.”
Fritch's excitement was obvious as he talked about what a win against a team like Southeast would mean for Grand Island. The Islanders picked up a huge win against Fremont a week ago and have a chance to improve to 2-0 in district play by beating one of the state's best programs.
District winners earn automatic playoff berths.
"If you win the right two games in districts you're probably in the playoffs,” Fritch said. "If you win three you're definitely in. Winning would definitely be an advantage for our kids and to the senior class in obtaining their goals.”
Defense is what impresses Fritch the most about coach Chuck Mizerski's Knights. Southeast's lines are anchored by Matt Mullen and Zach Copple, a pair of 270-pound lineman who are touted as major-college prospects by Mizerski.
"Southeast is always good — no matter what year it is. It's always a real big challenge,” Lagsding said. "I'm sure Southeast has some big guys on their line. It will be a good challenge to see what we can do.”
Ruud is a power runner who has spent more time on offense since Bahe was hurt. Rabe has a pair of dangerous receivers to throw to in Andy Birkel and Logan Geisler. Geisler is No. 81. Birkel, a speedster who like Ruud is a Husker recruit, wears No. 5.
"They got 5 and 81 who can both flat out fly. They have great hands,” Fritch said. "That quarterback can just throw it up for grabs. The chances of those two coming down with it are pretty good because they're great receivers.”
Because of Southeast's big-play ability, Fritch said it's important for the Islanders to play ball-control football. That means the Knights can expect to see a lot of running back Scott Siegel, a senior who has scored 10 touchdowns while rushing 165 times for 967 yards.
"Without a doubt we'd like to control the football and make it a short game. That's exactly what they have in mind, too,” Fritch said. "We're always concerned about big plays. Hopefully we can keep those to a minimum and we can control the ball most of the game.”
Hanging on to the football would be a definite plus for the Islanders in their quest to pull off the upset. The Islanders are good enough to keep the game close, but expect Southeast to continue its winning ways against a determined opponent.
Knights win 21-7.
All games start at 7:30 p.m. unless noted
Holdrege at Northwest, 7 p.m.
Kearney Catholic at Central Catholic, 7 p.m.
Adams Central at Centura, 7 p.m.
S-E-M at Ansley
Arcadia at Herndon, Kan., 5:30 p.m.
Aurora at Crete, 7 p.m.
Boone Central at Central City, 7 p.m.
Ainsworth at Broken Bow
Burwell at Loup City, 7 p.m.
St. Edward at Cedar Rapids
Cross County at Osceola, 7 p.m.
Ravenna at Doniphan, 7 p.m.
North Loup-Scotia at Elba
Wood River at Fullerton, 7 p.m.
Bertrand at Gibbon
Giltner at Hampton
Shelby at Greeley/Wolbach
Lexington at Hastings
Minden at Hastings St. Cecilia, 7 p.m.
Superior at Heartland, 7 p.m.
Clarkson at High Plains, 7 p.m.
Kenesaw at Loomis, 3:30 p.m.
Tryon at Litchfield, 4 p.m.
Loup County at Santee, 3 p.m.
Nebraska Lutheran at Nebraska Christian
West Holt at Ord
Palmer at Spalding/Spalding Academy, 7 p.m.
St. Paul at O'Neill
Shelton at Deshler, 7 p.m.
Neligh-Oakdale vs. Twin River at Silver Creek
Arthur vs. Wheeler Central at Bartlett, 6 p.m.
Jeff Apel is the prep football writer for The Independent. Last week, he was 21-10 (.677). For the season, he is 106-45 (.702). Contact him at email@example.com or 1-800-658-3160 ext. 216.