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Prep football preview: The defending champions, who to watch and key games in Class D-6

Prep football preview: The defending champions, who to watch and key games in Class D-6

From the Your one-stop for everything in the Journal Star's 2021 high school football guide series
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Defending champion: McCool Junction

A seven-man senior class led the Mustangs to a first-ever state title last season, leaving just two returning starters to defend the title. Chase Wilkinson and Gage Rhodes are the two players with experience, while Ryland Garretson is an exciting sophomore.

Other teams to watch

Cody-Kilgore (6-3, D-6 state semifinals, No. 4 final ranking): Cody-Kilgore made a surprise run to the semifinals last season, and the Cowboys return key starters such as Peyton Sterkel, Cactus Millar and Tucker Ravenscroft.

Creek Valley (7-3, D-6 state quarterfinals, No. 9): With seniors Eli Schmid at quarterback and Lucas Trujillo at running back, Creek Valley has a dominant duo capable of making big plays on offense.

Red Cloud (8-1, D-6 state quarterfinals, No. 6): Red Cloud equaled its best-ever finish with a state quarterfinal appearance last year, and the team's seven returning seniors will aim even higher this time around. 

Spalding Academy (7-2, D-6 state first round, No. 10): A disappointing first-round playoff exit last season will motivate Spalding Academy's returning starters, with senior quarterback Dawson Murphy leading the way.

Sterling (10-1, D-6 state runner-up, No. 2): No team could slow down the Jets' high-powered offense last season except for McCool Junction, and with senior starters returning at quarterback and offensive line, Sterling remains a contender.

Key games

S3: Cody-Kilgore at Arthur County

S9: S-E-M at Spalding Academy

S10: Red Cloud at Southwest

S17: Arthur County at Paxton

O1: McCool Junction at Parkview Christian

O22: Creek Valley at Potter-Dix

Players to watch

QB/DB Luke Kasten, Potter-Dix (6-3 | 150 | Jr.): Along with Arthur County's Bryce Hanna, Kasten was the only other six-man quarterback to throw for more than 1,700 yards last season, and he added 45 touchdowns, as well.

RB/DB Carson McCleary, Red Cloud (5-11 | 150 | Sr.): McCleary led six-man football with nine interceptions last season while also rushing for over 1,100 yards.

OL/DL Tanner McDonald, Sterling (6-3 | 200 | Sr.): McDonald and his Sterling teammate, Andrew Richardson, may be the two best linemen in six-man football. Both earned all-state honors on defense last season.

E/DL Tucker Ravenscroft, Cody-Kilgore (6-2 | 180 | Sr.): An all-state selection last season, Ravenscroft is an elite defender who excels at rushing the quarterback and stopping the run.

RB/DB Chase Wilkinson, McCool Junction (5-9 | 180 | Sr.): Even with several talented seniors ahead of him, Wilkinson ran for 364 yards last season. Now, the backfield is his.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7437 or at LMullin@journalstar.com. On Twitter @lmullin7

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