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Delivering the hits

PHOTOS BY RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD

The World-Herald’s Super Six — Jared Bubak, Gavin Rush, Ben Stille, Jacob Matthew, Noah Fant and Nick Lenners — rock on and off the football field. As pictured at the 402 Arts Collective.

Meet the 2015 World-Herald Super Six team

Cool on the stage — and tough in the trenches — the 2015 Super Six is full of guys who project to have strong college careers fairly close to the line of scrimmage.

The World-Herald’s annual look at the state’s top prep football players includes a whopping four tight ends/defensive ends — Omaha South’s Noah Fant, Ashland-Greenwood’s Ben Stille, Lincoln Southwest’s Nick Lenners and Lincoln Christian’s Jared Bubak — along with Aurora offensive lineman Gavin Rush and Millard North linebacker Jacob Matthew.

The Super Six identifies players who not only have played well on the prep level, but project to the collegiate level, as well.

Jared Bubak

Lincoln Christian tight end/quarterback

Height: 6-4   •   Weight: 235   •   40-yard dash: 4.70

2014 in review: Since Bubak was in the eighth grade, Lincoln Christian coach Matt Farup has been planning to use him as a quarterback once he got to the varsity level. So while Bubak projects to tight end or a big slot receiver at Arizona State, he’s the signal-caller for Farup. “He’s the best athlete we have, so we build our offense around him,” Farup said. Last season, Bubak threw for 614 yards and ran for 772 yards in nine games, according to MaxPreps. He showed off elusive running skills for a guy his size — he might be one of the biggest pure skill athletes in the state.

2015 outlook: More of the same for Bubak, who was long committed to Nebraska before he decided to decommit from the Huskers and verbally pledge to Arizona State, which runs a spread offense. Bubak will again play quarterback and try to lead the Crusaders to the Class C-1 playoffs. At a different school with a purer passer at quarterback, Bubak might catch 50 or 60 passes. As it is, he’s one of the state’s top athletes. “He’s really just athletically really strong,” Farup said. “Very long legs, good runner, great athletic ability.”

Academic standing: 3.4. GPA, 25 ACT

College plans: Committed to Arizona State

Lincoln Christian coach Matt Farup on Bubak’s leadership skills: “He’s not a real in-your-face, screaming kind of kid. He’s real, real positive. Everybody knows who the leader of the team is.”

Buback on the recruiting process: “People said it was really stressful, but I thought it was really fun. After the whole Arizona State thing, it’s really calmed down a lot, so that’s nice, just getting to our senior season and not having to worry about that.”

Favorite warm-up music: “I always gotta listen to rock or hip-hop before the games. Bands like Fall Out Boy.”

— Sam McKewon

Noah Fant

Omaha South tight end/defensive end

Height: 6-5   •   Weight: 215   •   40-yard dash: 4.64

2014 in review: Fant spent a good chunk of last season — his first at Omaha South — making noise for the Packers as a tight end and a defensive end and helping to build a culture of competition Fant wants to carry over to 2015. The team finished 1-8 and, in a number of those games, Fant was South’s primary weapon. The program’s former coach, Kevin O’Donnell, chose to resign and head to Papio South, where he’ll be an assistant. Fant’s older brother, Chris, takes over the team after coaching the defensive line last season. Chris Fant played college football at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. “Noah came in with a natural chip on his shoulder to become better last year,” Chris Fant said.

2015 outlook: For the first time in years, Fant’s spring and summer did not include a ton of AAU basketball. Instead, he took trips to several college football programs — Nebraska, Iowa, California, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt — as he gathered information about his commit. Fant has put on weight since last year and reshaped his body to get stronger. He’s also worked on defensive line techniques. The Packers’ football team is far less likely to have the success of the basketball team — which could win the state title — but Fant said he’s “ready to help move South in the right direction” under his brother’s leadership. Chris Fant said he’ll try to move his younger brother all over the field with motions and formations to free him up from double teams.

Academic standing: 3.7 GPA, 21 ACT

College plans: Considering offers from Nebraska, Iowa, Vanderbilt, Cal and UCLA

Noah Fant on choosing to go through a full recruiting process instead of committing without making visits: “I wanted to be a person who really thought about where I wanted to go. To really sit down and really choose a college.”

Chris Fant on Noah Fant’s potential: “I think he could be an outside wide receiver at most (colleges) right now with his size and his speed, but with some bulk on his frame, I think he naturally becomes a tight end eventually.”

Favorite warm-up music: Noah Fant likes several genres, but whatever it is, he likes it loud. Something that dials him into the game and shuts out distractions.

— Sam McKewon

Nick Lenners

Lincoln Southwest tight end

Height: 6-5   •   Weight: 241   •   40-yard dash: 4.60

2014 in review: Lenners kept tapping the potential that Silver Hawks coach Mark King saw from the start, becoming a two-way starter at tight end and defensive end (after being a part-time defensive starter as a sophomore). The receiving numbers weren’t staggering (six catches for 60 yards and one TD), but Lincoln Southwest didn’t throw a ton and Lenners spent a midseason stretch at offensive tackle out of necessity. Defensively, Lenners contributed 71 tackles, with eight sacks among his 14½ tackles for losses.

2015 outlook: In addition to working on his speed and agility, Lenners was catching 300 balls a day through the summer — “minimum,” he says — to be ready should he see an uptick in receiving targets. King said the Silver Hawks will have to be smart with Lenners, but also utilize a special talent. “He’s going to do as much as he can for us,” King said. “We’re going to use him in all kinds of different ways. We’re going to try to be creative with how we use him.” Some might see being a Division I recruit as added pressure to perform or convince, but Lenners said committing to K-State last February actually might lighten his load. “I’m going to go out and just have fun playing the game that I love,” he said.

Academic standing: 3.7 GPA, 25 ACT

College plans: Committed to Kansas State

Lincoln Southwest coach Mark King on Lenners fitting Kansas State’s offense: “Talking to their coaches, Kansas State does a lot with their tight ends, and he’s the prototypical size and what they like — and he’s a little bit faster than some of the tight ends they’ve played with recently. There’s just not many minuses there.”

Lenners on trying to help Lincoln Southwest rebound from a 4-6 season: “I want to be a leader for the team — go out there, play my best, give it my all and help the team out as best I can. We don’t want to stop until we win it all.”

Favorite warm-up music: Anything by Eminem

— Rich Kaipust

Jacob Matthew

Millard North fullback/linebacker

Height: 6-2   •   Weight: 230   •   40-yard dash: 4.61

2014 in review: Matthew played through pain last year. He had a torn labrum and surgery didn’t come until after the season. So that limited his work as a defensive end — he’s now moving to linebacker for the 2015 season. But he was needed most on offense last year and he did his job while helping the Mustangs reach the Class A quarterfinals. Coach Fred Petito said Matthew played smart and instinctive, blocked with physicality and also served as a legitimate “threat in the mesh” within Millard North’s option-style attack.

2015 outlook: Matthew spent much of his summer on the camp circuit, showcasing his skills for college coaches within the region. Schools have expressed interest in his potential at fullback, but linebacker looks like his ultimate landing spot. He’ll play both positions for Millard North this fall. And in addition to his team-first purpose, he’ll also have to take the field with his own individual future in mind. College coaches will be looking closely at what he puts on tape during those first few games. He doesn’t anticipate it being a distraction, though. “Whatever happens, is going to happen,” Matthew said.

Academic standing: 3.7 GPA, 27 ACT

College plans: Still undecided; currently has six offers

Matthew on his position switch to linebacker: “A lot of the (college teams) see me at linebacker. And I’ll have a very pivotal role. I’m going to love linebacker. Sam linebacker, middle linebacker. I’m going to be blitzing a lot. We’ll see what I can do.”

Millard North coach Fred Petito on Matthew’s running ability: “We always say, you either make them miss or you make them pay. He can do both. You have two choices. Some of our guys, with their body types, you don’t give them the choice. But Jake’s got the option. And once he gets in the secondary, he can get away from you.”

Favorite warm-up music: “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC

— Jon Nyatawa

Gavin Rush

Aurora offensive guard

Height: 6-3   •   Weight: 290   •   40-yard dash: 5.07

2014 in review: Like most prospects entering high school, Rush was a bit raw when Aurora coaches started tutoring him. Rush always thrived in the weight room, but needed to fine-tune technique and master details on the field. Those missing elements became his focus last year. “Football’s a passion for him,” coach Kyle Peterson said. Rush helped Aurora reach the first round of the Class B state playoffs, contributing mostly at offensive guard. He played some on the defensive line as well.

2015 outlook: Increasing his flexibility and range of motion were Rush’s goals this summer. He wanted to play with a lower center of gravity. So he made sure to do stretch two or three times a day — from a casual session while watching TV at home, to a pre-workout routine at the gym. “I really felt a difference,” Rush said. He expects the same to be true on the football field this fall, when he plans to play every snap and both offensive guard and defensive tackle.

Academic standing: 3.65 GPA, 24 ACT

College plans: Committed to Wyoming

Peterson on Rush’s challenge playing both offense and defense: “He’s a competitive kid. But this is his biggest obstacle to overcome. He plays hard. That’s the one thing you see on his film, how he plays through the whistle. Being able to do that and power through playing both ways — it’s a big task for a guy not to take plays off.”

Rush on Aurora’s season outlook: “We’re trying to win a state championship this year. I really think we can do it. We have a ton of returning talent. I don’t see weak spots on our team. I just think if we finish, every play, we’ll be good to go.”

Favorite warm-up music: “Ultimate” by Denzel Curry or “The Negative One” by Slipknot

— Jon Nyatawa

Ben Stille

Ashland-Greenwood defensive end

Height: 6-4   •   Weight: 235   •   40-yard dash: 4.79

2014 in review: After starting as a rangy cornerback as a sophomore, Stille (rhymes with Billy) moved to his more natural position last year and registered 63 tackles (19 for losses), including 10 sacks. Ashland-Greenwood coach Ryan Thompson said it was about four or five games into the 2014 season when Stille really started to dominate, getting off the ball faster, changing directions quicker and using his hands better. “It all just came together,” Thompson said.

Stille also contributes on offense as a tight end-receiver (16 receptions, 10 TDs last season), and his soccer background has helped as he’s handled the Bluejays’ kicking and punting chores. He followed his football success as a junior by winning a Class B wrestling state championship at 220 pounds. The football offers started to roll in last spring, and Stille picked NU over Iowa, while also considering Wyoming and Iowa State.

2015 outlook: Stille won’t come off the field much again as a senior, and that’s fine with him. “Any way to help the team, if that’s what is going to benefit us the most,” he said. “You’ve just got to be in a little better shape if you’re going to do that, instead of just playing one way.” Stille is eager to see how a little more recent focus on his speed and agility might pay off. Being a Husker recruit might raise the stakes and the attention, but Stille said he has faith in his preparation from the past four years carrying him through. He also wants an Ashland-Greenwood state championship after back-to-back losses in the Class C-1 finals.

Academic standing: 3.96 GPA, 26 ACT

College plans: Committed to Nebraska

Thompson on the momentum Stille has been building: “I think he’s just starting to understand the kind of opportunities there for him. I think he’s going to have a great year for us. We’re going to see a big jump, big improvement in his fundamentals. Then once Nebraska gets hold of him, and he concentrates on one thing and gets the repetitions, he’ll just start excelling.”

Stille on playing defensive end: “I definitely like pass rushing more than run stopping, but both of them are part of the game so I’ve got to be able to do both. So that’s what I’m working on. Just getting bigger and stronger will help with the run stopping.”

Favorite warm-up music: Anything by Tech N9ne

— Rich Kaipust

Special thanks

402 arts collective: The Super Six photos were taken at The 402 Arts Collective, located at 6051 Maple St. The 402 Arts Collective is a non-profit organization made up of artists who mentor, teach and inspire younger artists. “Our instructors teach almost every kind of musical instrument as well as various visual art forms,” Executive Director Ben Shafer said. “The 402 is all about creating avenues for students to have access to artistic mentorship that is excellent, life-changing and fun.” For information on music or art lessons, visit the organization’s website at 402artscollective.org or call 402-913-1939.

Cheerleaders: Omaha South's Dulce Galvan, Angelica Partida, Vilma Sosa and Alondra Magallanes, and Millard North's Anna Porter, Delaney Simmonds, Elle English and Paige Telley for their help at the photo shoot.

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