The road trips are always going to be long for the Scottsbluff football team.
That comes with the territory, of course, when you’re one of the westernmost schools in Nebraska, just 20 miles or so from the Wyoming state line — you’re going to have to travel east to play.
But 2022 brings a whole new set of travel challenges for the Class B preseason No. 2-rated Bearcats, starting Friday with a road trip to No. 8 Lincoln Pius X.
“I was probably as shocked as their head coaches were when that schedule came out in February,” Scottsbluff coach Judson Hall said.
“Their head coaches” refers to Ryan Kearney at Pius X and Reed Mandstedt at Waverly, both of whom will host Scottsbluff this season. Not to mention York’s Glen Snodgrass, whose Dukes will also play a home game against the Bearcats in September.
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Friday will mark the first of those three journeys, and the start of a season that will see Scottsbluff log more than 2,800 miles on the road and more than 42 hours of windshield time.
“We did not request that trip across the state. Obviously, we requested some teams that were a lot closer to us than that,” Hall said of trying to put together a schedule last year with the NSAA. “But that’s how it came out, so that’s what we’re going to play for the next two years.”
The flip side is that all those schools will travel to Scottsbluff in 2023. But for now, the Bearcats are gearing up for what could be a big season with the first of several big road trips.
Here’s a look at Scottsbluff’s itinerary for Friday’s game — an 800-mile round-trip odyssey that will last close to 24 hours.
* At 7 am Mountain Time, the Bearcats’ team bus will pull out of the Scottsbluff High School parking lot and drive the first 80 miles to Sidney for a 20-minute stop.
* After that, it’s three hours and about 215 miles to Kearney, where Scottsbluff will have a 45-minute walk-through at Kearney High School, eat a lunch packed by the team parents in the bleachers of Kearney’s football field, then get back on the buses.
* Then it’s another 113 miles or so to a truck stop off the Milford Interstate 80 exit, another 20-minute break, then back on the bus for the final 35-minute stretch into Pius X.
That should put the Bearcats at Aldrich Field somewhere around 5 pm Central, about nine hours after they left home and about two hours before the 7 pm kickoff against the Thunderbolts, who are back in Class B after an extended stay in Class A.
After that, Scottsbluff will pack up and drive through the night back to the panhandle, hopefully arriving back home around 6 am Mountain on Saturday.
“Rolling into Scottsbluff at 6 o’clock in the morning and my kids already being awake is going to be a unique experience,” Hall said with a laugh.
Even the short trips are long for the Bearcats. Outside of the annual game with Gering, Scottsbluff is on a bus for more than an hour, and usually more than two, for every road trip. This season, the “short” road trip is to Lexington, still a nearly four-hour drive one way.
The trips to York and Waverly will come in the middle and the end of September, respectively.
“It’s not a whole lot different from what we’ve done in the past, as far as these road trips,” said Hall, who joined Scottsbluff’s staff in 2010 as an assistant before taking over the head coaching role in 2019. “We’ re used to road trips to Grand Island Northwest, Hastings, Aurora; we’ve had York on our regular-season schedule before.
“So we’ve made this trip, just not that extra hour into Lincoln.”
The travel has done little to almost Scottsbluff’s success on the field. The Bearcats played in back-to-back Class B title games in 2018 and 2019, and this year Nebraska lineman commit Brock Knutson and standout running back Sebastien Boyle should have Scottsbluff in the mix again.
The Bearcats are 25-9 over the previous three seasons under Hall.
“I think our team is going to embrace the challenge, and we’re excited about it,” Hall said. “We know (Pius X) has been successful in Class B in the past, so it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
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