Calvin Strong's climb to the highest echelon of The World-Herald's All-Nebraska football team is part of Omaha North's show of strength this season.
The Vikings' running back is only the fourth player to make the All-Nebraska team for three years and the first since Danny Woodhead in 2003.
REBECCA S. GRATZ/THE WORLD-HERALD
North's Calvin Strong ran for 2,354 yards in 2014.Three-time All-Nebraska
Bobby Bass, Omaha Benson, 1972-74
Matt Spethman, Lincoln East, 1987-89
Danny Woodhead, North Platte, 2001-03
Calvin Strong, Omaha North, 2012-14
» Second team filled with first-rate talent
» List: All-Class teams, honorable mention
Strong also is one of six Vikings on the first team, the most for any school since Millard North had six in 2003. Omaha Creighton Prep had eight in 1985.
Strong and North defensive lineman Cole Bixler are the honorary captains, which is a repeat honor for Strong. North's other first-teamers are Jason Martin, a two-time selection at linebacker; Michael Decker, a Nebraska pledge as an offensive lineman; Marquise Lewis, the school's career leader for receptions and receiving yards; and Markell Vaughn, a defensive back and ace punt returner.
Also on the All-Nebraska first team at the skill positions are wide receivers CJ Johnson of Bellevue West and Vance Janssen of Blair, tight end Youhanna Ghaifan of Grand Island Central Catholic, quarterback Wyatt Mazour of Boone Central/Newman Grove and running back Tre Sanders of Omaha Central.
Other offensive linemen besides Decker are Xavier Graham of Central, Jack McLeay of Omaha Creighton Prep, Jeremy Kowalski of Papillion-La Vista South and Brett Stinson of Elkhorn South. Bryce Lyons of McCook is a repeat selection at place-kicker.
Also on the first-team defense are linemen Brian Arp of Kearney (a two-time pick), Ryan Earith of Papio South, Adam Holtorf of Seward and NU pledge DaiShon Neal of Central; linebackers Adrrell Taylor of Millard North and Kevin Cahoy of Grand Island; and defensive back Jeremiah Stovall of Creighton Prep.
Pierce Almond of Grand Island, the Class A all-state quarterback, completes this team. Listed as a punter/athlete, Almond put four of his 12 punts inside the 20.
North gave Strong a lighter workload than a year ago, when he averaged 27 carries a game while rushing for state records of 3,008 yards and 43 touchdowns.
In 12 games and 243 carries this year, he picked up 2,354 yards and 35 rushing touchdowns. His career totals of 7,478 yards and 104 touchdowns are state records for 11-man football.
"I was fresher," he said. "I felt I could do more."
His senior season and his future had grown cloudy last winter when he was suspended from school for four weeks.
"A dumb decision," Strong says now. He said he thought a lot about what was at stake while not in school.
"The suspension hit me hard," said Strong, who's committed to South Dakota. "I had to overcome it and I did. It's now something I can go back to if I'm thinking about making a dumb decision. I don't want to make any more decisions like that."
Bixler was a leader on a North defense that held its 13 foes to 157.4 yards and fewer than 11 points a game.
"As the year got on, we improved, got faster," Bixler said. "Our coaches set us up for success and we came together as one.
"It's been amazing, just a great ride. It was cool to win state last year and great to get back and do it again. This time, going out with a perfect season instead of being 12-1."
Items of note for the 94th annual All-Nebraska team:
» All 24 first-team players are seniors.
» Bellevue West's Johnson, who broke most 11-man career receiving marks, has committed to Wyoming, as has Central Catholic's Ghaifan. Holtorf is heading to Kansas State, Arp to Ohio and Lewis to South Dakota State.
» Central was second to North with three picks. Prep, Papillion-La Vista South and Grand Island each had two. There are 15 from the Metro Conference, three from the rest of Class A and six from outside Class A. Ghaifan and Mazour are from Class C-1 schools. Janssen, Stinson, Lyons and Holtorf are from Class B.
All-Nebraska and all-state selections are based on observations by The World-Herald staff and nominations by high school coaches. All coaches received nomination forms by email.
Contact the writer:
402-444-1041, email@example.com; twitter.com/stuOWH
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Meet the All-Nebraska first team
CJ Johnson, Bellevue West, WR, 6-2, 185, Sr.: Wyoming recruit, a repeat All-Nebraska selection, caught 63 passes for 1,214 yards and scored 20 TDs breaking most state career receiving records.
Vance Janssen, Blair, WR, 6-1, 175, Sr.: Broke every school record for receiving by catching 50 passes for 1,076 yards and 14 TDs.
Youhanna Ghaifan, Grand Island CC, TE, 6-4, 240, Sr.: Wyoming recruit caught 45 passes for 782 yards and six touchdowns while leading the Crusaders' defense with 73 solo tackles.
Michael Decker, Omaha North, OL, 6-4, 280, Sr.: Nebraska recruit is a repeat All-Nebraska selection. Gained the reputation of never taking off a play.
Xavier Graham, Omaha Central, OL, 5-11, 275, Sr.: Playing on a torn meniscus, he was "our best and most consistent blocker on offense and run stuffer on defense," coach Jay Ball said.
Jack McLeay, Omaha Creighton Prep, OL, 6-1, 255, Sr.: The Junior Jays' two-year starter at center was the leader of a veteran line that helped Prep return to the state finals for the first time in 10 years.
Jeremy Kowalski, Papillion-La Vista South, OL, 6-3, 270, Sr.: The three-year starter "is a physical blocker who has the ability to stay on people," coach Walt Olsen said. Also was on the defensive line.
Brett Stinson, Elkhorn South, OL, 6-4, 290, Sr.: His line coach, George Drinnin, said the Tennessee transplant is the best O-lineman he's coached in his 38 years.
Wyatt Mazour, Boone Central/Newman Grove, QB, 5-9, 190, Sr.: Electric and explosive, he led the Cardinals to the Class C-1 state title by rushing for 1,625 yards, throwing for 1,869 and accounting for 51 touchdowns.
Calvin Strong, Omaha North, RB, 5-10, 175, Sr.: South Dakota recruit, a three-time All-Nebraska first-teamer, set 11-man career records with 7,478 yards rushing, 104 touchdowns and 624 points.
Tre Sanders, Omaha Central, RB, 5-8, 170, Sr.: Ran for 1,848 yards and 23 touchdowns and returned two punts for touchdowns. Also played safety on defense.
Bryce Lyons, McCook, K, 5-11, 135, Sr.: A two-time All-Nebraska pick, he made 10 of 12 field-goal tries -- half of his makes were between 45 and 50 yards.
Brian Arp, Kearney, DL, 6-3, 258, Sr.: Ohio recruit, "the top D-lineman in the state," Bearcats coach Brandon Cool said, had seven sacks, 37 solo and 95 total tackles.
Ryan Earith, Papillion-La Vista South, DL, 6-5, 240, Sr.: The defensive end, who has FCS offers, had eight tackles for losses, five sacks and five blocked passes. Averaged 17 yards a catch as a tight end.
Adam Holtorf, Seward, DL, 6-5, 275, Sr.: Kansas State recruit had four sacks and 16.5 tackles for losses among his 81 total tackles. Also started on the Jays' offensive line.
Cole Bixler, Omaha North, DL, 6-1, 200, Sr.: Had three sacks in the state final to finish with 8.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for losses and 104 total tackles.
DaiShon Neal, Omaha Central, DL, 6-7, 240, Sr.: Nebraska recruit had 13 tackles for losses, five sacks, six hurries, two takeaways and a blocked kick. Caught two TD passes against Omaha North.
Jason Martin, Omaha North, LB, 5-10, 200, Sr.: By making 11 tackles in the state final, the two-time All-Nebraska pick finished with 116 tackles, 15.5 for losses, and three interceptions.
Adrrell Taylor, Millard North, LB, 6-1, 210, Sr.: "Our best two-way player in the past 10 years, since Jake Galusha," said Mustangs coach Fred Petito. Led his team in tackles and had 1,018 yards rushing and receiving.
Kevin Cahoy, Grand Island, LB, 6-0, 185, Sr.: Had five takeaways and two forced fumbles while making a team-high 107 tackles for the Islanders. Also had more than 800 yards of offense as a receiver.
Marquise Lewis, Omaha North, DB, 5-11, 180, Sr.: Teams didn't test this two-way standout very often, a sign of respect for the South Dakota State recruit. As a wide receiver, he caught 43 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Jeremiah Stovall, Omaha Creighton Prep, DB, 5-11, 170, Sr.: Picked off six passes, broke up eight and blocked two kicks. Made 45 tackles. At running back, he averaged 12 yards a carry and scored 11 touchdowns.
Markell Vaughn, Omaha North, DB, 6-0, 180, Sr.: Led the Vikings with five interceptions and scored on four returns -- one pick-six, one kickoff return and two highlight-reel punt returns.
Pierce Almond, Grand Island, P/A, 6-2, 190, Sr.: Two-time, 2,000-yard passer also was adept with his leg when the Islanders had to punt, putting four of 12 kicks inside the 20.