The basketball team finished last season with 20 wins and a final state ranking of third. That's their best finish in the state tournament since a second-place finish in 2003. This year they are ranked number one and with post-season play right around the corner, looking to keep that momentum as they try for a state title.
For the football team it was a nine-win season against only two losses, and Southeast beat Southwest, their chief city rival since Lincoln Southwest came into existence seven years ago. The Knights also added a victory against defending state champ Millard West.
From the 1-8 season the year before and an identical season before that, and losing seasons for the last five years – this was a nice thing.
"it was a great year for us, and it's been a long climb back," Head Coach John Larsen said.
That climb back has to do with the entrance of Lincoln Southwest, a school which opened its doors in August of 2002, and it didn't take long before Larsen saw its effects. "You look around you now, and it's almost an entirely new school. Everything has been improved. But at that point it wasn't like that," said Larsen who coached under Chuck Mizerski in 2004 before taking over the job the next season. "Our numbers went from having around 60 freshmen out for the team to just over 20.
"It's kind of hard to build success or maintain the kind of success we were used to, when you have that kind of drop-off."
That success saw Southeast win back-to-back state titles three different times and their most recent state championship came interestingly enough, the first year Southwest was open for business. It hasn't been like that ever since.
Southwest, on the other hand, because so many people were opting to take their kids to the new school, showed quick success, the pinnacle at this point coming in 2005 when they made it all the way to the state title game before losing to Millard North.
But Larsen saw the numbers coming back. Along with the improvements in the school which were almost across the board from the academic to the athletic side, there was an improvement in the confidence of the football team, despite the record not reflecting that for while.
Derrius Vick, who will be going into his final year with LSE as both a basketball and football standout, always remember Larsen's message. "He'd say the numbers are coming back, we are getting better and we would see that soon," Vick said. "We saw that, but we also saw a real big improvement in the team's attitude."
Former standout running back Zach Taylor, who will be walking on to the Husker program this year, said that the older guys took it upon themselves to do something that was just habit for the types of players LSE had when they were running roughshod over most of the state. "We got on people. Between what our coaches were doing over the Summer and the senior leaders, we got on people to get into the weight room, put in the time and work to make ourselves better," he said.
And players like Vick see it as their jobs to continue that seemingly brief tradition.
Defensive Lineman David Sutton will
"They got on all the underclassmen, but you can see how that work pays off. If you aren't willing to work for it, you aren't going to make any progress," he said.
That's something that Vick says he and other seniors like lineman David Sutton, linebacker Broderick Boehm and receiver Derek Shouse are making sure they continue. "For me, part of it is being the quarterback and people expecting you to be a leader. But there's a real effort from all the older guys making sure that we do what the older guys did for us," he said. "It's about leading by example, but also by letting people know about how things should be done."
You could see Vick has a full plate when it comes to that. Not only did he pass for over a thousand yards as the starting QB for Southeast football last season, he's been one of their most consistent scorers on the basketball team. Currently, Vick estimates his average at around 14 points per game, playing point and sometimes the two-guard position.
It's something that hasn't allowed him to really get better from an injury he got way back toward the beginning of the football season. "I had a couple of bones in my foot get moved around and strained some ligaments against Papillion La Vista South. I like to run, but it wasn't real easy to do that from that point," Vick said of the injury which happened in week three of the season.
What is interesting about that game is that fellow Knight Zach Taylor, actually broke two bones in his back that same game. Both would not only finish the season, but Taylor only missed the next week's game after the injury.
For Vick, who says that even now the injury isn't 100 percent healed, the kind of grit he showed, that Taylor showed – it was kind of symbolic of that entire team. "It's just doing what you have to do to win, to get better, to become successful. Things aren't always going to be great. That's when you work harder to make them great," he said.
Vick might very well be one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the state going into this next season, And while he's losing some weapons such as his entire backfield as well as most of Lincoln Southeast's formidable defensive line which featured, amongst others, future Husker Jake Cotton – he sees the silver lining around the cloud. Some of it coming from a school which still is reeling from the opening of Southwest, but also of Lincoln North Star which came into existence a year before Southwest.
"We are getting three transfers from there, and one is a really good running back who is kind of a bigger back type," Vick said of Nate Tromblee, who was Lincoln High's rushing leader last season, averaging almost five yards per carry for the 2-6 Links. "And when you look at the other guys we have coming back, I think we might actually be a bit quicker than we were last year, at least offensively."
Vick is easily the most recruited of LSE's athletes right now, receiving interest in both basketball and football. From the gridiron perspective, he's gotten letters from Nebraska, of course, as well as Iowa State, Iowa, Kansas, Northwestern and Kansas State. But on the basketball side of things, he already has two written offers, one from Colorado State, and the other comes from South Dakota State. And the list of letters for round ball is extensive.
It's kind of a no-brainer to think about what sport you'd play, especially when one of those programs is Division 1-A on both the hardwood and the football field. Vick said, however, that he's still trying to make that choice. But he doesn't have any hesitation about saying which sport he favors. "I have been playing basketball my whole life. I love it. My dad played at Nebraska," Derrius said of Derrick Vick, who lettered for the Big Red under Danny Nee in 1987 and 1988. "That's where I would be leaning right now."
But he said that it isn't completely a done deal. There are aspects of football he is fond of, as well. "I just like being able to do everything out there, from running to throwing. And I know I didn't do as well last year as I could have, because I wanted to run more than I did," he said. "I like making the calls at the line, just making plays when something breaks down. It's fun. But I haven't played it even close to as long as I have played basketball."
The most attention he's getting from Nebraska right now, is as you might imagine, for basketball. At 6-2 and around 180 pounds, Vick is an obvious guard with solid ball-handling skills. And his Summer will be spent with two AAU squads, the Omaha Bison and the Kansas City Truth. Not much time to get to 100 percent, but Vick said he's confident he'll get there. "It's slower coming back all the way when you don't have time to just heal up. But it's been coming back little by little," he said. "I'm not sure when I'll get the time to really just let it come back, but it will get there at some point."
|Two-way standout Derek Shouse
will be another big key for offense
to maintain and even build on last
For Larsen, who returns just four starters on defense, but over half the offensive squad, he sees how important Vick is going to be in helping Lincoln Southeast try to continue to keep momentum instead of taking a step back. "He's a big key for our offense, obviously. We lose some experienced guys, but we had some good weapons on offense, and many of those guys are coming back," he said. "Derrius is going to have to be a leader out there, but he's already done that. I think he's going to have a really good year."
As for where he's heading to college, Vick isn't ready to make that kind of decision, because he knows he doesn't have to at this point. After all, he has his mind on a lot of other things. Helping the team to a state title this year in basketball is obviously the one he's thinking about the most. But getting LSE the next step forward and a step backward in time in regard to the good old days of football, is another he can't help but think of right now.
It's a good time for LSE athletics. Vick says it's going to get a lot better.
"We have guys. We have weapons. And we had those older guys set the example about how you do things and saw how much of an impact it had. People know now how much it can pay off, when I don't think people could see it a couple of years ago," he said. "This isn't a time to start enjoying what you did, though, because that's over. Now we want to do better. I think we have the team to get it done."