Freeman, now Huskers’ top golfer, leads Aitken, Miller-Monroe to title at 5th annual CMC event

     The team of Bob Aitken/Miller-Monroe, comprised of Aitken, Bill Simon, Ron Kelley and University of Nebraska No. 1 golfer Calvin Freeman, a Humboldt-TR-S graduate, shot 11-under 59 to win the Championship Flight of the fifth annual Community Medical Center Charity Golf Outing held at the Falls City Golf Club.
    Other notable “celebrity” players included former Husker and NFL linemen Brenden Stai and Aaron Graham, NU All-American and Kansas City Chief Hall of Famer Neil Smith, and former Husker All-America quarterbacks Tommie Frazier and Steve Taylor.
    Freeman, the son of Barb and Randy Freeman, of Table Rock, is a history major at UNL and last spring used up his final year of eligibility. He now has set his sights on joining the professional ranks.
    Freeman, a four-time state medalist, graduated from HTRS in 2011, finishing runner-up in Class C State (after losing a playoff) for the second year in a row. In the spring of 2010, as a high school junior, Freeman earned statewide acclaim with a remarkable 7-under-par 64 (33-31) at the Tecumseh Country Club.
    After high school, he first went to SCC in Beatrice for two years — earning first team NJCAA All-America honors both seasons. Freeman tied for second at nationals as a sophomore after a sixth-place finish as a freshman. He also won the Region IX and SCC Spring Invite individual titles during his time in junior college.
    After transferring to UNL, Freeman quickly made his way to the front of the line for the Huskers, starting 11 tournaments and playing to a 74.9 stroke average in 31 rounds as a junior. At the Desert Shootout in the spring of 2014, Freeman opened with 68 before rounds of 72 and 71 en route to a 5-under-par 211 total, his best 54-hole score of the season. In his very next event, Freeman again fired 68, this time in the final round of the Hawkeye Invitational. The score marked the best by an individual among the 65-player field during the rainy final day. At the Oak Hill Intercollegiate, he was one of four Huskers to finish in the top 10, notching a tie for ninth at 12-over-par 222.
    This past spring, Freeman was Nebraska’s top player, leading the team with a 74.94 stroke average and firing a team-best seven subpar rounds of golf. At the Mark Simpson Invite, the college senior opened with another 68, and also earned his best career finish with a tie for 3rd place at 5-under-par. His lowest 54-hole score of the season came at the Denver Desert Shootout, where he fired a one-under-par 215 and finished tied for 32nd.
    In May, Freeman nearly advanced to the second of two qualifying rounds for the U.S. Open, shooting 73 at the Omaha Country Club and finishing in a four-way tie for the fifth and final spot. Pro Ryan Vermeer, of Omaha, birdied the first playoff hole to move on.
    A couple weeks prior to making his appearance in Falls City, Freeman competed in the Nebraska Match Play Championship at Valentine. After qualifying with the No. 4 seed, Freeman was upset by Timothy Davis of Cozad in the opening round after 21 holes. Earlier this summer, he finished runner-up at the Fremont Invitational, shooting 70-68, four strokes back from champion Carson Schaake, and tied for fifth (with rounds of 73-73) at the Homesteader held at the Beatrice Country Club. He finished just two strokes from a three-man playoff between Lance Lawson, Greg Stanek and Ross Dickson.
    Through three events, he is currently 10th in the Nebraska Golf Association point standings. The NGA ranked Freeman as the 15th-best player in Nebraska last winter (the rankings are updated annually on the first day of January).
    The team of Dr. David Borg and his wife, Joyce, Matt Simpson and Jim Hoy shot 10-under to finish second, followed by Miller-Monroe (63), Dickey’s BBQ (63), F&M Bank (64) and Dr. Charles James, Jr. (64).
    Hullman’s Ford, with Taylor, Ben Hullman, Marty Froeschl and Ron Jordening, finished first in the “A” Flight with a round of 65, winning by handicap over a four-way tie with the Southeast Communications team of Dorothy Towle, Chuck Whitney, Mark Hodge and Bob Ivey, which placed second. The Tanner Shelby Merz Foundation Team was third, followed by the Travis Morgan Team in fourth. Both the Ed and Sandra Hartman and the Richardson County Bank & Trust teams each shot 66; and the Jim Hill’s/Animal Health Center team shot 68.
    The Godemann Family/Southeast Nebraska Insurance Agency team of Ted, Todd and Travor Godemann, and Dan Jones, shot 70 to win the “B” Flight, winning by tiebreaker over the American National Bank team of Neil Smith, CMC Administrator Ryan Larsen, Ed Finan and Adrian Breen. The Falls City Journal (Brian and Nikki McKim, Rhonda Harmon and Graham) was third with 71. PTRS/Nachtigal was fourth (72), followed by Sampson Construction (74), Halbert, Dunn & Halbert (74), Julie Rush Team (74) and Cedar Hollow Foods (76).

Cinderella story ends in sixth

The Falls City AL Senior baseball team battled back from an early 5-1 deficit and took it’s seventh seed and a dramatic 8-6 lead into the bottom half of the sixth inning Sunday night in the championship game of the SE Nebraska Conference at Nebraska City’s Steinhart Park, but there Plattsmouth rallied for four runs to take a 10-8 victory.
    After a pair of thrilling triumphs at Syracuse (6-3) Wednesday and at home against Nebraska City (6-4) Friday, the Storm clinched its second consecutive Southern Division title and fourth of the past five years. Sunday, however, it seemed the Storm had finally subsided, as a horrific opening inning saw No. 1 seed Plattsmouth take a 5-1 lead. Left-handed starter Noah Milam issued three walks and hit a batter, while his defense committed a pair of errors and the first five P-Town batters reached and scored. It could’ve been much worse, as Plattsmouth left bases loaded on a warning-track shot to deep center, caught by FC’s Tyler DiGiacomo to end the frame. DiGiacomo single-handedly both started - with a single and run scored - and, mercifully, ended the first frame.
    FC, now 9-9 on the 2015 season, didn’t lie down. Second baseman Rudy Vrtiska hit a one-out double in the second and scored on a single by third baseman Weston Witt (3-for-3, 2 RBI), making it 5-2. Meanwhile, Milam settled down to pitch a scoreless second and reliever Trenton Pentecost came on with one down in the third and effectively shut Plattsmouth down through the fifth.
    Trailing 6-2, FC scored three runs in the top of the fourth to make it a game again. Catcher Ransom Campbell was hit by a pitch and Brandt Chapple came in as a courtesy runner. Following a double by Logan Scheitel, Chapple scored from third on a sac fly to right off Vrtiska’s bat, and Witt drove Scheitel in with a double to right. Witt scored on a double by Pentecost. DiGiacomo lined out to shortstop to end the inning.
    Pentecost faced just four in the bottom half, fanning the right fielder looking to end the inning, and FC took the lead in the top half. Just like the fourth, albeit with two outs, it was Campbell getting hit by a pitch that started the rally. Scheitel, Vrtiska and Witt singled in succession and suddenly the Storm had a two-run lead. Unfortunately, FC wouldn’t reach base the rest of the game.
    Plattsmouth led the fifth off with a single, but Pentecost fanned the No. 9 batter and Campbell threw out the lead-off hitter trying to steal second. Later, with two on, a grounder to Witt ended the threat.
    But after FC went in order in the top of the sixth, the first four Plattsmouth batters reached and scored on Scheitel, who came on in relief after throwing a 133-pitch gem last Wednesday at Syracuse.
    FC brought the middle of its lineup to the dish in the seventh, but three grounders ended the Storm’s title hopes.
    DiGiacomo and Witt were both named to the SENBC All-Conference Team, while Chaz Dunn and Scheitel each earned Honorable Mention.
    The team hosts Doniphan County (KS) Wednesday at SNC Field. They’re then off until a Tuesday, July 7 home game with Sabetha, KS.

Tiger star - who’s District Final heroics helped FC make back-to-back state hoops appearances, is All-Star Game’s first-ever unanimous MVP

By Jane White    
    Falls City graduate Weston Witt went into the Southeast Nebraska All-Star Boys Basketball game just looking to have a little fun.
    Witt had a little more than just “fun” on his mind, however, when he took the Southeast Community College-Beatrice Truman Center court Saturday night.
    The former Tiger led the East boys squad, scoring 18 points in the first half of a 91-82 victory over the West and put his name in the game’s history book along the way. Witt finished with 24 and was named as the game’s Most Valuable Player on a unanimous vote by coaches and media attending the game.
    According to Southeast Athletic Director Dan Johnson, having a unanimous selection for MVP was a first in the 27-year history of the all-star contest.
    “It’s never happened before,” Johnson said. “There have always been two or three players at least getting votes.”
    The Southeast Nebraska All-Star Basketball games, for both boys and girls, were started in 1988 and have been sponsored and hosted by Southeast Community College-Beatrice since then.
    Witt said winning the MVP award wasn’t something he thought about before the game started.
    “I played with a great group of guys who made it a lot of fun,” Witt said. “We had pretty good chemistry for only having two practices together.
    “But the (MVP award), I definitely did not think would happen.”
    Witt attributed his success in the game to being in the “right spot at the right time.”
    “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, but it feels awesome,” Witt said.
    East All-Star head coach Chris Hutt of Johnson County Central said Witt played exactly like he expected him to play in the game.
    “He’s kind of instant offense,” Hutt said. “I’ve seen him do that all throughout the years. He sees the court very well. He has a good head for the game and a good feel for the game and he’s just a really good basketball player.”
    Early in the game, Hutt said Witt “couldn’t miss” when he shot the ball.
    “He (Witt) really brought us back into it,” Hutt said. “In the beginning, we got down a little bit, but he was just solid all night.”
    Witt led all scorers in the game with 24 points on two three-pointers, seven two-pointers and a four-for-four free-throw performance.
    Also scoring for the East team were Sacred Heart graduate Austin Malone with eight points and Fall City graduates Jack Hartman with four and Jordan Stoller with two.
    “I came out and hit my first couple shots and that kind of sparked me,” Witt said. “I just did what I could to get the team going and we went on a pretty good run in the second quarter.”
    Like Hutt on the bench, Witt’s high school coach Don Hogue, who was watching from the stands, expected no less from his former player than a solid performance.
    “Weston played really well tonight,” Hogue said. “He’s been an integral part of us going to the state tournament back-to-back years for the first time at Falls City High School since 1940.
    “He’s an overall team player. He can do a lot of things and he can shoot it extremely well like he did tonight.”
    Hogue said he had talked to Witt last Wednesday, after the East team had a practice.
    “He (Witt) told me how much fun it was going to be (to play),” Hoge said. “You could tell he came out really relaxed and shot the ball well. He really did a lot of good things.”
    Hogue said it’s “great” for the Tiger program to have a player win an MVP award in an all-star game.
    “We’ve had players in the game in the past, but we’ve never had an MVP,” Hogue said.
    Hogue said it was appropriate Witt was the first Tiger to win the award because he was an important part of “turning around” the Falls City program.
    Witt being a unanimous selection was also “pretty special,” Hogue said.
    While he’s helped the Tigers win ball games the past several years, many of the team’s opponents were represented on the East All-Star team.
    Witt said a lot of his all-star teammates and coaches are people he has played against throughout high school.
    It felt good, Witt said, to be able to play together, instead of on opposite sides, for once.
    “Some of the guys who you thought were enemies before, you get a chance to play with them, and it’s really fun,” Witt said. “It was definitely a lot of fun.”
    Hutt said all of the East players are “very competitive” and all wanted to end their high school careers with a win.
    “When you’re playing five, the seven on the bench all want to be in there, because they don’t come out for their high schools teams,” Hutt said.
    Hutt said in selecting the team, the coaches tried to pick kids with “character.”
    “They really showed that tonight,” Hutt said. “They’re very competitive kids and they were a lot of fun to be around. They practiced hard and they played hard.”

Girls Basketball
    The East girls All-Stars fell to the West, 62-54, in action prior to the boys contest.
    Sacred Heart graduates Abby Magdanz and Elizabeth Magdanz had nine and five points, respectively for the East squad, while Falls City graduate Baylee Vrtiska had two points.
    The West’s Shelby Pollman from Fairbury was the girls game MVP.

    In all-star volleyball action Friday night at the Truman Center, the West defeated the East, 25-18, 25-21 and 25-19.
    Playing for the East squad in the game were Falls City graduates Maygan Ramsey and Jerrica Beckner and Humboldt Table Rock Steinauer graduate Ashton Nanninga.
    East team member Jenna Habegger of Pawnee City earned the game’s MVP award.

CMC, TSMF join forces, attract more celebs than ever for charity golf event

By Jason Schock
In teaming up with a local charitable juggernaut and narrowing its focus, Community Medical Center will later this month host its biggest — in a myriad of ways — charity golf tournament ever.
For the 5th annual CMC golf event, the hospital’s foundation has partnered with the Tanner Shelby Merz Foundation and the twosome is fixed on a singular, stated aim: Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness.
Former Nebraska football greats Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers, Tommie Frazier and Jerry Murtaugh, former Husker, Kansas City Chief and Denver Bronco Neil Smith, as well as WBO World Lightweight Champion Terence “Bud” Crawford, to name only a few, will be in Falls City, event coordinator Linda Santo said.
Whereas the previous four annual charity golf events were held for the general benefit of the CMC Foundation, this time the cause is specific, and the event is a two-day affair. A “Celebrity Gala Dinner” will be held Thursday, June 25 at the Elks Club, followed by the four-person golf scramble Friday, June 26 at the FC Golf Club. Thursday, following dinner, attendees will hear from guest speaker Dr. Arthur Maerlender, the University of Nebraska’s Director of Clinical Research and Associate Director for the Center for Brain, Biology, & Behavior.
CB3, as it’s dubbed, is housed in Memorial Stadium’s newly expanded east side, which underwent a $55 million renovation and opened in the fall of 2013. Under 6,000 additional seats and 38 luxury suites, the athletic and academic worlds unite as scientists, engineers, medical professionals, teachers and students utilize the most state-of-the-art brain-scanning equipment known to man. Dr. Maerlender and his associates at CB3 and the adjoining Athletic Performance Lab are producing groundbreaking research in the field, expanding the understanding of brain function and its effects on human behavior like never before.
UNL’s growing expertise in concussion research includes the capability to simultaneously record brain activity and track eye movement and the $3 million functional MRI machine tracks the brain’s blood flow and one day may enable physicians to determine, in a matter of minutes, whether or not a person’s brain has been concussed. A vision of legendary retired football coach and athletic director Tom Osborne, CB3 and the Performance Lab are looking for ways to diagnose and treat TBI and make football and other sports safer.
Concussions (some 300,000 sports-related concussions are reported annually in this country) have become a top concern in sports in recent years and hundreds of millions of dollars have been funneled into research, much of it going to universities. Or foundations.
The CMC Foundation’s stated mission is dedication “to the health and well-being of the individuals and communities we serve. We offer hope, healing and assurance through quality healthcare, engaged outreach and faithful stewardship.”
CMC CEO Ryan Larsen, though out of town and unavailable for comment Monday, said in regards to the golf event and Dr. Maerlender’s anticipated appearance, “It is exciting to be associated with Dr. Merlander. The CB3 Institute is at the leading edge of international brain injury research, and Dr. Merlander brings powerful insights as both a world-renowned researcher and as a treating practitioner that has been promoting improved methods for preventing, identifying and caring for concussions for decades.”
The TSMF was started by the family of Tanner Shelby Merz, a 21-year-old Falls City native who was killed in a car accident in March 2013. At the time of the wreck, Tanner was attending Midland Lutheran University, studying teaching and coaching.
The non-profit organization states its goal as “helping students achieve greatness” and its mission, “to help young men and women be as safe as possible in athletics.”
Since its inception, the TSMF has generated an incredible amount of interest and money in a short amount of time. Its Facebook page had 2,355 “likes” as of Monday night and sizeable donations have been made to both Falls City schools and several youth-related activities groups. More money will enter the coffers Saturday at the second annual MudFest coed mud volleyball tournament at Jaycees Community Field.
The CMC and Merz Foundations, by joining forces, pooling resources (title sponsor American National Bank and 17 other local corporate sponsors quickly filled the four-person golf teams) and specifying a sole purpose, will host a star-studded event that will generate — by far — more money and exposure than it ever has, Santo said.
“It’s going to be big,” she said. “Much bigger than the others.”
Big, as in Big Red. There’s no place like Nebraska and since that now applies both to football and the study of the brain, Santo is wisely utilizing both resources to maximize the benefits for CMC and TSMF.
Quick physics lesson: If you apply a certain amount of force to a larger area, it will result in a certain amount of pressure. However, if you decrease the size of the area significantly, there will be a significant amount of pressure, even if the amount of force is the same.
By focusing on TBI, the door at CB3 swung wide open (members of both foundations were welcomed with open arms in May and Dr. Maerlender didn’t hesitate upon being invited to speak). Behind that door? A two-time Super Bowl champion, a world champion boxer, a Heisman trophy winner, etc.
That said, there is another big reason CMC is getting the former Huskers and star athletes to Falls City and his name is “Coach” William Reed. The former Omaha Central High School football coach once upon a time delivered big, strong, fast, elusive and tough I-backs to Lincoln (or, alas, linebackers to Iowa City) — these days he wants them back, long enough for a round of golf.
Nebraska football players draw a lot of attention - wanted or otherwise - and that doesn’t necessarily end when they stop playing. Attaching former Huskers and other well-known athletes or personalities to the cause will only draw more attention to said cause. Reed, who moved to Falls City more than a decade ago, and Rodgers have been good friends for more than 30 years — that explains Johnny’s southeastern trajectory on many occasions. Reed coached former Husker running backs Calvin Jones, Leodis Flowers and Keith “End Zone” Jones at Central, as well as Iowa All-America linebacker Larry Station. They will all follow their “Coach” to the Elks Club June 25 and out to the course the 26th. Reed helped get many former Huskers to Falls City over the years; last year, it was late-1980’s era All-America quarterback and successful Lincoln-area realtor Steve Taylor.
This year, though, it is different. Far more “star power” this time (ED NOTE - Have you ever seen a guy play the Country Club with a Super Bowl ring on his finger? Two SB rings?! Never seen a championship belt out there, either; not since Falter’s sold me one, anyway). Taylor is coming back, but not only will he not be the biggest name on the bill, he won’t even be the best college quarterback at the table. Reed, alone, couldn’t attract all these stars; TBI, alone, couldn’t attract all this attention; CB3? CMC? TSMF?
It’s all of the above, pushing in the same direction, applying just the right amount of pressure in just the right place. It’s physics, man.

Husker legend, Chiefs Hall of Famer Smith takes a swing at players’ union

As Falls City Journal Editor Jason Schock wrote a week ago, “In teaming up with a local charitable juggernaut and narrowing its focus, Community Medical Center will later this month host its biggest — in a myriad of ways — charity golf tournament ever.”
For the 5th annual CMC golf event, the hospital’s foundation has partnered with the Tanner Shelby Merz Foundation and the twosome is fixed on a singular, stated aim: Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness. Whereas the previous four events were held for the general benefit of the CMC Foundation, this time the cause is specific, and the event is a two-day affair. A “Celebrity Gala Dinner” will be held Thursday, June 25 at the Elks Club, followed by the four-person golf scramble Friday, June 26 at the FC Golf Club. Thursday, following dinner, attendees will hear from guest speaker Dr. Arthur Maerlender, the University of Nebraska’s Director of Clinical Research and Associate Director for the Center for Brain, Biology, & Behavior.
In terms of celebrity, the 2015 version of CMC’s charity golf tournament looks to be different than anything Falls City has hosted in decades. Not since, perhaps, the days when “Handsome” Harley Race and “Bulldog” Bob Brown appeared on the same Prichard Auditorium wrestling card, if not longer.
Former Nebraska All-American, Kansas City Chief Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl Champion Neil Smith headlines a bill that includes former Huskers Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers, Tommie Frazier, Steve Taylor, Jerry Murtaugh, Lawrence Pete, Calvin Jones and others. WBO World Lightweight Champion Terence “Bud” Crawford has accepted an invitation to attend as well.
Smith, now 49, was the second player selected in the 1988 NFL draft and one of the few “home runs” the Chiefs hit that decade. KC actually traded up from No. 3 to get the defensive end, who was picked before receivers Tim Brown (Raiders, 6th), Sterling Sharpe (Packers, 7th) and Michael Irvin (Cowboys, 11th), all three now members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If Chiefs fans were chafed by that move, they quickly forgot all about it, as the former Husker, with linebacker Derrick Thomas, headlined one of the NFL’s best defenses throughout the early- to mid-1990s. Smith’s 7-foot, 1-inch wingspan eventually formed a home run swing rivaled in fame by only that of maybe George Brett at the Truman Sports Complex, and nose strips became all the fashion at Arrowhead. Smith “hit” a league-high 15 “home runs” in 1993 and didn’t miss a Pro Bowl from 1991 to 1995. He then went to Denver and helped the rival Broncos win back-to-back Super Bowls (XXXII and XXXIII). The New Orleans native went home after retiring, but returned to Kansas City following Hurricane Katrina and in 2006 was inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame.
But in 2013 Smith and nearly two dozen other former Chiefs, including Albert Lewis, filed concussion lawsuits against their former employers and last summer sued the NFL Players Association, alleging the union withheld information regarding the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries.
Smith is a life-long loyal Husker, but his appearance in Falls City likely has everything to do with the event’s affiliation with CB3 and the cause of TBI.
Last August, Smith, and several other former Chiefs — all now in their 40s — claimed the players association has for decades been aware of the evidence linking repetitive TBI to long-term neurological problems but ignored the risks to players and failed to alert players to the issue. A Missouri judge in May ruled the cases should be heard separately, which could force team officials to testify about claims they hid the risks of repeated head injuries.
Smith played 13 years in the NFL and recorded 105 sacks. He and the other players who sued, however, developed “post-concussion syndrome — e.g. mood, behavior and cognitive dysfunction — and neurological impairments/damage” between late 1987 and early 1993 when there was no NFL collective bargaining agreement in place.
Next week: Profiles on each of the celebrities making their way to Falls City for the CMC/TSMF charity event for TBI Awareness.