Senior defensive players seek scholarship offers, improvement during pandemic

Kristin Kennedy, Broadcast Manager

Last week the Omaha World Herald reported freshman wide receiver DaeVonn Hall received a scholarship offer from the University of Iowa. Other receivers, including junior Micah Riley, junior Kaden Helms and senior Keagan Johnson also have offers from multiple Division I schools. 

And while the offense scores the points, the defense makes sure the opponent’s score stays at zero. Yet there’s a lack of offers going out to defensive players. 

Senior linebacker Kier Kier said he hopes to see more recognition for defense this season. 

“Hopefully after this season more defensive players will be on that Division I platform,” Kier said. 

Senior safety and defensive captain CJ Lilienkamp said that high school offensive players often end up playing defense in college. 

“It’s highlighted more for offense than defense,” Lilienkamp said.

Senior linebacker and defensive captain Jack McDonnell explained that high school defense differs for college. He said that taller more athletic players often get to keep their offensive position while “defense is more for the  people who want to hit.”

“The offense scores all the touchdowns but defense is a lot so we really wanted to get our name out there and show that we are the best,” McDonnell said.

Senior linebacker Kier Kier anticipates the snap from the East offense. (Sophie Goessling)

Kier, Lilienkamp, and McDonnell have been playing varsity defense for over three years. McDonnell’s averages surpass national averages, with 86 solo tackles and 159 total tackles. His average was 5.3 tackles per game, 16 sacks, and six interceptions.   

“I also got all state,” McDonnell said. “Matt Thompson and I were the only defense to get that,” 

Kier’s last season stats included 34 solo tackles and 91 total tackles. He averaged  3.6 tackles per game, three sacks, and one interception. Kier has received one offer so far from Wayne State College.

“My most major accomplishment was being voted a captain,” Kier said. 

Lilienkamp last season had 33 solo tackles and 82 total tackles. He  averaged 6.3 tackles per game, four deflected passes, and one blocked kick. This year Lilienkamp was voted as captain of defense along with McDonnell. 

“I  practiced and worked my butt off to get that spot and then finally getting to where I am,” Liliekamp said.

Although COVID stopped activities for a couple months, defensive coordinator Wade McVey said that over break the lack of practice affected their skills.  

“Since we had the big time from March to summer you see a bit of a decline and we forgot stuff,” McVey said. “That’s okay because we had from May till now to get back to where we were. I think we are pretty close.” 

These seniors used quarantine as an opportunity to work on their skills and their overall performance. They made sure to keep up on workouts to help them prepare for this season. They participated in playing 7-on-7 football or finding ways to get together safely to work.

McDonnell was able to keep in shape with the help of his friends letting him use workout equipment and during the start of quarantine his neighbor who is a high school football coach would work with him. He also attended as many workouts either a vertical program or with Bellevue West. 

“We got together as a team as much as possible,” McDonnell said. ”It was nice we were able to get ahead and doing 7-on-7.”

Lilienkamp explained how he got to work with a personal trainer on his footwork but also got to play in a 7v7 league for Warren Academy. He said these helped him with his overall performance but he also stayed on top of regular workouts to “gain weight and muscle mass.”

Off season for Kier was going to the fields everyday and running drills. He also would attend weights and worked with the team when they went down to the field.

“I’m just happy we are still able to play,” Kier said.