In the moments after Omaha Burke claimed its first Class A state football title in school history, Bulldogs coach Paul Limongi lavished high praise on junior wide receiver and defensive back Xavier Watts.
"He was our best player all year," Limongi said then.
Yes, standout linebacker Nick Henrich missed four weeks with a knee injury, but the Bulldogs had all kinds of talent. Henrich and Chris Hickman, of course, are now Husker signees. James Burks was one of the best running backs in the state.
But Watts, a two-way starter at 6-foot and 200 pounds, was the best of the bunch in his coach's eyes.
His recruitment is certainly shaping up that way.
Watts picked up an offer from Notre Dame on Saturday, the latest high-major school to join the race for a prospect, currently ranked as a three-star, that college coaches think could play on either side of the ball.
— Xavier Watts (@xavierwatts6) January 26, 2019
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The Irish are only the most recent, of course. Watts picked up offers from Purdue and Iowa State a year ago, then saw more of the Big Ten West join the fray in October when Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska all offered in a five-day stretch. Earlier this month he also picked up an offer from Kansas State.
Watts finished his junior season with 67 catches for 1,093 yards and 14 touchdowns on offense and 57 tackles and five interceptions on defense and was a first-team Super-State selection by the Journal Star.
Watts attended several games at Memorial Stadium in the fall and also got to South Bend, Indiana, in September.
Watts is one of two 2020 prospects from the state that already have Husker offers. The other is Bellevue West wide receiver Zavier Betts.
NU's lone 2020 commit so far is quarterback Logan Smothers (Athens, Alabama).
QB | Cedric Case, Lincoln High
Lincoln High | 6-2 | 205 | Sr. | College: Texas State
Stats and stuff: The Links’ football renaissance continued this season with Case at the controls as he led the Links to a 7-3 record and their third straight Class A state playoff appearance. Case showed the ability to make all the throws, completing a Class A single-season state record 73 percent of his passes (Case set the record at 68 percent last year) for 2,782 yards and 25 touchdowns. He finishes his high school career with a state 11-man record of 70 percent completion percentage with 8,020 yards and 81 touchdowns.
QB | Baylor Scheierman, Aurora
Aurora | 6-6 | 185 | Sr. | College: South Dakota State, basketball
Stats and stuff: The left-handed Scheierman may be playing Division I college basketball starting next season, but he proved he could have a future as a Division I quarterback in propelling the Huskies to a 13-0 record and the Class C-1 state championship. Scheierman broke C-1 state passing records for yards in a season (3,923, an 11-man record), most yards in a game (507), yards per-game in a season (301.7), completions in a season (255, an 11-man record) and most touchdown passes in a season (59, 11-man record). He finishes his career with 6,642 yards through the air and 88 TD passes.
RB | Zander Gray, Omaha North
Omaha North | 6-1 | 230 | Sr. | College: Undecided
Stats and stuff: The repeat first-team Super-Stater suffered through an injury-plagued senior season, missing the Lincoln Southeast game at midseason with a concussion and going out in the first quarter of the first-round playoff game against Grand Island with a dislocated elbow. Gray still managed to rush for 1,555 yards and 20 touchdowns, and averaged 8.5 yards per carry despite defenses stacked up to stop him. Gray, the best combination of power and speed in the state, went over 200 yards in four games, including a 240-yard performance in a 52-49 win over Bellevue West in which he scored three TDs. He finishes his career with 4,731 yards and 65 TDs. Gray has offers from South Dakota and North Dakota, and is getting interest from several FBS schools.
RB | Jay Ducker, Bellevue West
Bellevue West | 5-10 | 185 | Jr. | College: Undecided
Stats and stuff: Ducker demonstrated why he’s a recruiting target for a number of Power Five conference programs, using his diverse running style to gain 1,813 yards and score 30 touchdowns this season to help lead the Thunderbirds to the Class A state playoff semifinals. Ducker turned into a workhorse in Bellevue West’s three playoff games in which he rushed for 609 yards and had eight TDs. Ducker also is a threat to catch the ball out of backfield with 23 receptions for 119 yards and two TDs this season. He enters his senior season with 3,635 career rushing yards and 57 TDs. Currently has an offer from Purdue with Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Stanford all showing interest.
WR | Zavier Betts, Bellevue West
Bellevue West | 6-3 | 195 | Jr. | College: Undecided
Stats and stuff: Despite opposing defenses focused on stopping him, the two-time first-team Super-Stater still caught 48 passes for 856 yards and 12 TDs, combining with second-team Super-Stater Shane Dailey Jr. to give the Thunderbirds the best 1-2 punch in the state at wide receiver. Betts had five catches for 142 yards and a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns as Bellevue West pulled away late for a 42-21 win over Lincoln Pius X. He had six catches for 150 yards and three TDs against Omaha North. He’s had a scholarship offer from Nebraska for more than a year and is also being pursued by Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota and Purdue, all of whom have also offered.
WR | Xavier Watts, Omaha Burke
Omaha Burke | 6-1 | 190 | Jr. | College: Undecided
Stats and stuff: Watts provided the big-play ability on the outside for the Class A state champions, and it was never more evident than the state final in which he got loose for touchdown passes of 62 and 37 yards in the third quarter to erase a 14-3 halftime deficit to Grand Island. Watts, who had 11 catches for 159 yards in the state final, finished with 67 receptions for 1,093 yards and 14 TDs. Watts is also a standout defensive back with 58 tackles and five interceptions this season. Watts has scholarship offers from Nebraska, Iowa State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue.
WR | Brady Danielson, York
York | 6-3 | 205 | Sr. | College: Northern State, basketball (Has NU walk-on football offer)
Stats and stuff: The two-time first-team Super-Stater is one of the state’s best combination wide receiver-defensive backs with an ability to high-point a football that’s nearly unmatched in the state. Danielson battled a groin injury the last part of the season but still finished with a school-record 49 receptions for 929 yards (another school record) and seven TDs. His 198 receiving yards against Seward in the regular-season game and 2,000 yards for his career are also school records. Recorded 36 tackles and intercepted four passes on defense, running his career interception total to a school-record 15. Danielson is also a returning first-team all-state basketball player who led York to the Class B state title last March.
OL | Noah Stafursky, York
York | 6-4 | 315 | Sr. | College: Nebraska, walk-on
Stats and stuff: York coach Glen Snodgrass calls Stafursky the best offensive lineman he’s ever coached. Stafursky registered 46 pancake blocks this season in which he put the defender to the ground, with 11 against Seward being the season high. He also left his mark on the other side of the ball as a defensive tackle with 34 tackles, four of which were behind the line of scrimmage. Stafursky’s size, strength, mobility and tenacity on the field make him an intriguing prospect at the next level.
OL | Kohl Herbolsheimer, Millard South
Millard South | 6-3 | 270 | Jr. | College: Uncommitted
Stats and stuff: Herbolsheimer, already a three-year starter, combined with second-team Super-Stater Jayden Merriman to help pave the way for two Patriot 1,000-yard rushers this season in second-team Super-State junior running back Isaiah Harris and sophomore quarterback T.J. Urban. Herbolsheimer, one of the top linemen in the junior class and a likely Division I recruit next season, also had 53 tackles as a defensive end with three sacks, eight stops for losses and a safety.
OL | Ryan Bena, Creighton Prep
Creighton Prep | 6-4 | 275 | Sr. | College: South Dakota
Stats and stuff: Bena, a second-team Super-Stater last season, continued the Junior Jays’ tradition of physical football this season. Creighton Prep coach Tim Johnk calls Bena the best offensive lineman he’s coached in his 26-year career. “Ryan is athletic, smart and is nasty,” Johnk says of Bena.
OL | Blake Anderson, Omaha Skutt
Omaha Skutt | 6-5 | 275 | Jr. | College: Undecided
Stats and stuff: Anderson provided the push upfront that helped make fellow first-team Super-Stater Jarod Epperson a 2,000-yard rusher and lift the SkyHawks to the Class B state championship. He was also key in Skutt’s dominating defense, with 62 tackles from his defensive tackle spot. His height, size and athletic ability should make Anderson a Division I college recruit in the next year, according to Skutt coach Matt Turman.
OL | Mehki Butler, Omaha North
Omaha North | 6-3 | 325 | Sr. | College: Undecided
Stats and stuff: The last two years when the Vikings needed yards, they’d run 230-pound Zander Gray behind the massive Butler, a repeat, first-team Super-Stater. Butler is extremely mobile for his size, and he used that to make an impact defensively as well as; he had 23 tackles, four behind the line. Has offers from Northwest Missouri State and Iowa Western Junior College, but could pick up Division I interest late.
Ath. | Jarod Epperson, Omaha Skutt
Omaha Skutt | 6-0 | 185 | Sr. | College: Undecided
Stats and stuff: Epperson finished his high school career in dream fashion, capping off Skutt’s 13-0 Class B state championship season with 260 yards rushing and four touchdowns to go with two pass receptions for 77 yards and two more TDs in the SkyHawks’ 48-27 win over Scottsbluff in the finals. Epperson emerged as one of the top running backs in the state as a senior with 2,319 yards rushing and 40 TDs (rushing and receiving). His combination of power and speed has colleges making a later push for his services.
Ath. | Cole Evans, Grand Island
Grand Island | 6-2 | 190 | Sr. | College: Creighton baseball
Stats and stuff: A sprained ankle late in the regular season caused the quarterback to miss almost the entire double-overtime setback to Millard West and the next game, an upset loss to Lincoln Southwest. He returned for a win over Lincoln East in the regular-season finale and fueled the Islanders’ playoff run with wins over Omaha North, Millard South and Bellevue West to reach the Class A state final. Evans completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,581 yards and 18 TDs, with the top performance coming against Lincoln High when he was 14-of-18 for 251 yards and three TDs.
K | Dylan Jorgensen, Lincoln Southwest
Lincoln Southwest | 5-9 | 175 | Sr. | Nebraska walk-on
Stats and staff: Jorgensen did not miss an extra point in his high school career, hitting all 29 as a senior after putting through 36-of-36 as a junior. Jorgensen was 7-of-11 in the field-goal department as a senior, with a 47-yarder and a game-winning 33-yarder in the final seconds against Kearney. He finished 14-of-21 for his career. His strong leg let the Silver Hawk defense start from a position of strength — 36 of his 48 kickoffs were touchbacks. Jorgensen was also the punter, averaging 36.5 yards per punt this season and scoring on a 78-yard run off a fake.