By Jane White
For a span of just more than one week, FC Sacred Heart’s Doug Goltz will be an eight-man football coach in an 11-man coaches’ world.
But he has done it before.
In 1997, he served as an assistant coach for the South in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl Football Classic. Naturally, the South won that game, 14-13.
The difference this time around, Goltz is the “man” in charge.
Being selected head coach is “an honor,” Goltz said.
An honor, and while it’s said “there’s a first time for everything,” not many such opportunities remain for the Irish coach, who in 28 years at Sacred Heart has amassed 266 victories to just 46 losses (an .852 winning percentage) and has never had a football team miss the playoffs (both are state records). In 2013 he took a tunnel walk for the first time en route to a seventh state football title and now he’s one of just three eight-man coaches (out of 114 total) to ever be head coach at the Shrine Bowl.
“It’s an honor for all of us coaches,” Goltz said. “But to be the head coach, it’s a great honor. It’s a great thing to be a part of and good to be around such great athletes.”
Lawrence-Nelson’s Gary DeBoer was the first Shrine Bowl head coach from the eight-man ranks in 2006 and Mike Spiers, of Howells, was second in 2010.
Both of those coaches — DeBoer and Spiers — led their respective teams to victories in those games.
Goltz said when it comes to winning all-star games, for the most part, it all comes down to execution.
“You can’t have negative plays and can’t make the little mistakes that really cost you,” Goltz said. “It’s really no different than any other game.
“It’s tough because you’ve only had eight days to get them ready, but both teams have the same thing going. We just hope we have our guys prepared the best we can so we can go out and play a good game.”
The 57th annual Nebraska Shrine Bowl Football Classic will be held Saturday, June 6, at 2 p.m. at Cope Stadium/Foster Field on the University of Nebraska at Kearney Campus. The game will be televised live on NET.
The day’s activities will begin with the annual Shrine Bowl Parade at 10 a.m. in Kearney.
Tickets for the all-star contest can be purchased the day of the game at the stadium and are $12 for general admission and $7 for students. Cope Stadium has a seating capacity of 5,250.
In 1997, Goltz served on the Shrine Bowl coaching staff under then Lincoln Pius Head Coach Tim Aylward. The other assistants were Jerry Shank of Omaha Gross and Bill Carlin of Hastings Adams Central.
In order to be considered as a head coach for one of the two Shrine Bowl teams, a coach must have previously served as an assistant.
Coaching staffs named in October, well in advance of the June game.
This year, Goltz is leading a five-assistant staff which includes Ryan Gottula of Lincoln Southeast, Jim Jacobsen of Norris, Phil Truax of Dundy County Stratton, Matt Farup of Lincoln Christian and Lynn Jurgens of Wilber-Clatonia.
“I like working with these coaches,” Goltz said.
The Irish coach has had an abundance of talent to work with in his nearly three decades at FCSH, but he’s never had a roster like this one, which includes heralded Nebraska signee Daishon Neal of Omaha Central, Kansas State-bound Adam Holtorf of Seward, Ohio scholarship recruit Brian Arp of Kearney and NU walk-ons Conor Young, of Cozad, Fyn Anderson, of Lincoln SE, and Noah Johnson, of Sutton.
Neal, a 6-foot-7, 260-pound defensive end, was one of the bigger “gets” of the recruiting cycle for the Huskers. He turned down late offers from Oregon, Oklahoma and Michigan to stick with new coach Mike Riley and Nebraska.
Coaching a guy like Neal may be a first for Goltz, but having been involved with the Shrine Bowl before as an assistant, he said he “knows what the game is for.
“I think that’s my No. 1 job — to remind the players of the goal of the game,” he said.
For all 57 years of its existence, the Nebraska Shrine Bowl has helped raise funds for Shriners Hospitals for Children, which currently includes 22 locations in North America.
The hospitals provide orthopedic surgery and services, burn treatment, procedures for cleft lip and palate and spinal cord injury rehabilitation free of charge to young people needing care.
“You look forward to the game because that’s how coaches and players think,” Goltz said. “But the hospital visit will be special. These guys can really see what the game is about.”
The South team will visit the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Chicago Wednesday. The North squad was scheduled to visit the same hospital today (Tuesday).
While his “job” during the Shrine Bowl camp is to help players focus on why they are playing the game, Goltz had a lot of things to do from the time he was selected as head coach until the start of game.
The biggest project each year for the coaching staffs, Goltz said, is selecting the players.
Players from across Nebraska are nominated from their own head coaches and then the nominations are narrowed down to 35-man rosters for the South and North squads.
“We had probably 100 players that we didn’t select who were nominated and are all great players,” Goltz said. “Just getting the roster set took a lot of time and a lot of film watching by the coaches.”
Goltz said the South coaching staff had several meetings to get their roster set.
Most of the state’s classes are represented on the South team’s roster from the largest Class A schools to the smallest Class C teams.
There is one eight-man player, Kyle Jensen, of Exeter-Milligan, on this year’s South roster.
The coach may know his new 200-pound running back all too well. Jensen rushed for 200 yards on 34 carries and led his team back from a 22-6 second quarter deficit to post a 28-22 semifinal win over Goltz’ Irish in a battle of defending eight-man champs on a frigid afternoon in Milligan last November. In the teams’ regular season meeting, also played at Milligan, Jensen rushed for 175 of his game-high 225 yards in the second half of a 46-20 E-M win over Sacred Heart. Jensen, who signed a letter of intent to play at Doane College this fall, and the Timberwolves went on to win the Class D title, to go along with the D1 trophy they earned in 2013.
After the team was selected, Goltz said the coaching staff had several more meetings to get their offense, defense and special teams schemes together.
“We decided who was going to take what as far was responsibilities,” Goltz said.
While the coaching staff had some idea where the players they selected would fit into the game-day picture for playing time, Goltz said all players are being given a chance to play both offense and defense in camp.
“So far, we’ve run everybody on offense and defense so they know both the offense and defense, Goltz said.
Heading into Sunday night’s practice/scrimmage, Goltz said the team had practiced just four times since reporting Friday afternoon, May 29.
“In the scrimmage, there were a lot of guys who played both ways,” Goltz said.
“As we get to then end of the week, we’ll know which guys are going to play more ‘D’ and which guys are going to play more offense, but we want them all to be able to play on both sides of the ball.”
Along with practices and a trip to the hospital, the South team was treated to a family picnic Saturday.
The teams will be at their respective camps, the South at Doane College in Crete and the North at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, until Friday when they will bus to Kearney.
There will be a Shrine Bowl Banquet for both teams Friday night prior to Saturday’s parade and football game.