TIME OUT with Joe Flanagan

They played a football game in Norfolk Saturday. That’s right – June 8. And, you know what, it just seemed natural.
After all, Nebraskans love their football – and Northeast Nebraskans as much, maybe even more, than anyone.
Maybe it was the weather, as well. Cloudy and rainy all day. Breezy and cool in the evening. Yeah, it felt a little like football.

Whatever the case, the first Northeast Nebraska All-Star Classic was a bonafide hit, from the return to the sideline of Hall of Fame Coach Bob Schnitzler, to 2,249 fans filling beautiful Veteran’s Memorial Park, to pads popping on the vivid green Field Turf.
This turned out to be a great idea.
I’ll admit, when I received the first hint of another all-star game, I groaned a little. Led by the glut of state and area “all-star” basketball contests, it sometimes seems the concept has been a bit watered down and overly commercialized.
However, as I contemplated this venture and watched the plans of the initial NEN all-star grid contest take shape, I realized this was actually overdue.
I’ve purported for many years that, in regards to smaller-class football (C1 and below), Northeast Nebraska provides the best our state has to offer.
Consider for a moment the NEN programs that have regularly vied for and won C1, C2, D1 and D2 championships – Norfolk Catholic, Pierce, our own Boone Central and Boone Central/Newman Grove Cardinals, Howells and Dodge, Humphrey and St. Francis, Crofton, Elgin and Pope John, West Point (Guardian Angels) C.C., Hartington and Cedar Catholic, Ewing, Bloomfield, Plainview, Wakefield. I could probably use the entire space for a column listing the proud accomplishments of Northeast Nebraska football – back to Schnitzler’s storied Battle Creek days.
It’s fitting to celebrate that stature and provide an opportunity for the coaches and athletes who make it possible to shine one more time.
Some of those athletes will now move on to the next stage. For many, it was the final time they will ever don pads. There were rivalries renewed – Knights and Bluejays and Cardinals again knocking helmets – and new competitive experiences – C1 vs. D2, 11-man vs. 8-man.
It all worked. A terrific idea, first proposed by recently retired Rich Rethwisch, coach of Saturday’s Red squad. Brought to life by a dedicated Board of Directors, headed by familiar NEN mentors Jeff Bellar and Mark Brahmer. Sharply presented and run by the Norfolk Area Visitor’s Bureau, title sponsor Faith Regional Health Services, additional sponsors and countless volunteers.
Football in June. An NEN all-star salute. Yep, it just felt right.
After all, we can never have too much football, can we?

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