By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
SEWARD, Neb. – This week’s renewal of the annual high school football rivalry game between Seward and York High Schools comes with a unique storyline. With Jamie Opfer replacing 19-year Bluejay head coach Greg Welch this season, both Seward and York now feature former Bulldog standouts running the show on their respective sidelines.
York third-year head coach Glen Snodgrass, a 1999 Concordia graduate, will match wits with Opfer, class of 1998, when their teams meet on Friday night on Levitt Field at East Hill Park in York, Neb.
Snodgrass, also the strength coordinator for York Public Schools, played four years of basketball under head coach Grant Schmidt for the Bulldogs from 1994-98. He then starred on the football field as an all-conference defensive end for head coach Courtney Meyer for one year – his fifth and final at Concordia.
Snodgrass says he learned valuable lessons from both Schmidt and Meyer.
“You take a little bit from every coach you play for and coach under,” said Snodgrass, a native of Scotia, Neb. “From Coach Schmidt I learned a lot about toughness and hard-nosed work ethic. He was very intense and hard-nosed. He didn’t allow any horse play.
“Coach Meyer was also a very good coach. He taught me about building relationships with athletes. When you run into Coach Meyer he treats you like the most important person in the world.”
Opfer, now in his 14th year as both a PE teacher and member of the football staff at Seward High, employs many of the values that were reinforced in him by Concordia University and Meyer. Opfer played football for four years from 1994-98, earning all-conference honors as a linebacker.
“Coach Meyer influenced me with the way he lives faith first,” Opfer said. “I try to bring that same faith into my coaching and my everyday life. Coach Meyer also had a great passion for football and a love for the game.”
Now the two friends stand at the helm of Nebraska high school Class B programs located less than 30 miles apart along highway 34.
Both have already compiled impressive résumés. Snodgrass guided Overton High School to a state championship and a record of 96-31 record over 12 seasons and has the Dukes off to a 2-1 start and a No. 10 ranking in Class B. Meanwhile, Opfer served as a key staff member during Welch’s successful tenure before being promoted to head coach. Opfer is already generating buzz in the Seward community with his Bluejays sporting an identical 2-1 mark.
Their former college football coach is not surprised by their accomplishments.
“They’re both good coaches that I’m very happy for,” Meyer said. “Above all, they are the right people for dealing with young men and influencing their lives.”
Said Meyer of Opfer: “When I watched him coach he seemed like a different guy because he was emphatic, he really coached hard and he was more verbal than he was as a player. As a player he did his talking with his pads. He’s a guy that’s really going to be good for players. He’s a relational coach. He’s sharp defensively and he’s doing some good things with the offense. I know the program is in good hands.
“As far as Glen Snodgrass, Glen had played four years of basketball. We could have recruited him as a football player too, but he devoted himself to basketball. His last year he played football and he was an outstanding defensive end. He was a guy who had a lot of ability and made a difference. He’s a great coach and he got it done at Overton. I’m really happy for him.”
On Friday at 7 p.m., Opfer and Snodgrass go head-to-head for the first time. Both the Bluejays and Dukes steamrolled their first two opponents of the season before suffering defeats in week three. In a rivalry game like this one, there’s no telling what may happen.
“We’re 30 minutes apart. The kids all know each other. Being in the same conference and district, it’s a big deal,” Opfer said. “It’s a big rivalry game like all games between teams within the conference.”
Snodgrass has quickly turned around the fortunes of a York program that had been in the midst of a lengthy losing streak upon his arrival. Now attendance is way up and the Dukes expect to win every time they take the field. They pulled off a stunner in last year’s Class B playoffs when they upset No. 1-seeded Scottsbluff, 28-9, as the 16th seed.
Snodgrass and the Dukes hope to avenge last season’s 39-21 loss to Seward, but know it won’t be easy. Snodgrass says containing Seward quarterback Keith Wolverton is crucial.
“Seward has a much better team than they’ve had in recent years,” Snodgrass said. “Their quarterback is a good player. They’ve got very physical lines. On defense we have to play smart and disciplined football. With the read option they run, one mistake and their quarterback can take it the distance. Our biggest keys will be on defense.”
Opfer’s creativity from an offensive standpoint has allowed Seward to take advantage of Wolverton’s skills and is a big reason why the Bluejays have already equaled their win total from last year. Opfer, whom Snodgrass says was “exactly the right guy for the job” at Seward because of his enthusiasm and highly energetic style, says his team will need to play smart in order to defeat York once again.
“We’ve got to play good football and control the ball,” Opfer said. “We have to make sure we don’t have the penalties and turnovers that can turn a game. We have to be fundamentally sound.”
Whether Friday brings a victory for the Bluejays or the Dukes, a Bulldog is certain to come out on top.
“It’s going to be fun,” Snodgrass said. “It’s two good friends competing against each other.”
Says Opfer, a Geneva, Neb., native: “The kids play the game. The coaches do nothing but coach.”
And boy can they coach.