SEWARD, Neb. – Concordia University alums Todd Ekart (’97) and Jamie Opfer (’98) know each other well. They even lived together during their careers as Bulldog football players. Now the two friends are set to square off inside Bulldog Stadium as head coaches in the first round of the 16-team Nebraska Class B playoff bracket.
Ekart will bring ninth-seeded Sidney High School (7-2) to the Concordia University campus to challenge Opfer and eighth-seeded Seward High School (7-2). Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday.
Ekart, who played for head coach Courtney Meyer at Concordia from 1993-97, relishes the chance to return to his alma mater.
“I was excited,” Ekart said about learning of the playoff pairings. “I was on the bus back from Gering (48-0 Sidney win) and there was some speculation on who it was going to be, but I am really looking forward to Friday.”
There will be mutual respect across sidelines on Friday night. Opfer, a four-year Bulldog linebacker from 1994-98, once lived with Ekart and a few others in a basement apartment in Seward. Similar to the matchups the last two seasons that have pitted Opfer against fellow CUNE alum Glen Snodgrass and York High School, the upcoming battle comes with a Concordia flavor.
“I was excited about the opportunity to play Sidney,” Opfer said. “It’s a unique opportunity when you have a chance to compete against someone whom you know very well and have a lot of respect for how they run their program and the things that he has accomplished at Sidney. I think when Todd took over they were 0-9. To go from where they started to where they are now is a testament to his work ethic and passion for the game.”
Like Ekart, Opfer (15th year as a PE teacher and football coaching staff member at Seward) has helped rejuvenate a program that struggled the season before he took over as head coach.
“I think Jamie has done a great job bringing the Seward program back to prominence,” Ekart said. “Watching the Seward defense reminds me of how Jamie used to play – fundamentally sound and always making plays.”
Both coaches also lean upon offenses capable of lighting up the scoreboard. The Red Raiders got star running back Chance Aglin (101 rush yards vs. Gering) back from an injury a week ago. They pair him with quarterback Lane Harvey.
The Bluejays counter with quarterback Reid Karel (1,531 yards passing), running back Chance Stevenson (838 yards rushing) and receiver Ben Klenke (679 yards receiving), making up a talented trio of skill players.
The Concordia alums expect a competitive contest that may not be decided until late in the fourth quarter.
“I think the game could go either way,” Opfer said. “It could be a shootout, or it could be a defensive battle. Either way I know it’s going to be a great game. Both teams are well balanced offensively and can run or throw it and the defenses are stout.”
Ekart (who says that one of his greatest memories of playing at Concordia was competing alongside his brother Drew) forecasts a physical battle on Friday.
“I think both teams have a bunch of really athletic players and both are physical,” Ekart said. “I expect a clean hard-hitting game from both teams.”
The winner between Seward and Sidney will advance to the quarterfinals to play either top-seeded Omaha Skutt (7-2) or No. 16 Waverly (4-5) on Friday, Nov. 7.