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Franklin wins fall state tournament in esports debut

Junior Evan Kolami almost didn’t participate in Franklin High School’s inaugural entry in the esports program, but his friends talked him into it and they went on to win their division Saturday at the Nebraska Schools eSports Association fall state high school tournament at Hastings College.

Kolami said he was focused on athletic programs like cross country and basketball and wasn’t sure if he would have the time in his schedule for another activity.

His friends, fellow juniors Gregory Boettcher and Levi Meade, convinced Kolami to join the newly-created esports team at Franklin High School to take their joy of the video game "Rocket League" to the next level.

“We’ve been playing since the fourth or fifth grade,” Meade said. “We’ve developed teamwork and communication and that helps.”

Competitors from across the state converged at the Hastings College Esports Arena in the Gray Center Friday and Saturday to test their video game skills against the top high school players in more than 70 NSeSA schools.

It was the first state tournament hosted by Hastings College Esports, which began its first full year of collegiate varsity competition this fall.

Matt Hinkel, NSeSA board president and teacher at Grand Island Northwest, said it was the fourth year of the fall season tournament, which involved weekly matches and playoffs to qualify.

NSeSA’s state competition includes three video games: "Valorant" is a five-person team game, "Rocket League" is a three-person team game and "Smash Brothers Ultimate" is a single-player combat game.

In each of four divisions based on school size, the top four teams for "Rocket League" and "Valorant," and the top eight "Smash Brothers Ultimate" players qualified to compete in the fall tournament.

NSeSA will have two more state tournaments this year for the winter and spring seasons.

The Franklin High School Rocket League team qualified as well as Boettcher individually for "Smash Brothers Ultimate." Boettcher won third place in that tournament.

"Rocket League" is a soccer-style video game in which competitors use vehicles to strike the game ball (which is about the same size as the vehicles) through the goal.

Cars race across the field or up walls of the arena to pass the ball between players or take a shot at the goal. Players have five minutes to rack up points with ties putting a game into overtime until one side scores a tie-breaking goal.

Franklin battled Walthill in the first match, with the best three of five games winning the match. Walthill scored first in the first 50 seconds of the first game.

Franklin made a goal to tie up the game with 1:47 in the game. Walthill answered back with a second point 26 seconds later. Franklin managed a second point with 52 seconds remaining to push the round into overtime.

Franklin’s Meade made a goal off a rebound to win the game in 22 seconds.

In the second game, Boettcher scored first with 3:06 left. Walthill tied up the match with 2:08 to go and Franklin retook the lead a minute later. With 34 seconds in the game, Walthill scored a second point to force another overtime point.

Meade took a shot at 38 seconds into overtime and the ball bounced off the frame around the goal, but Boettcher was there to push the rebound in to win the game.

By the third game, the Franklin team started to settle in and Boettcher scored in the first six seconds of the match. Franklin kept up the pressure, scoring four unanswered points to take the match 5-0 and earning a spot in the final round.

After the first match, Kolami said the team was slow to start off as they tried to get used to depth perception difference from the screens being closer in the esports arena than what they are used to at home.

“Everyone is starting to get used to it,” he said.

Franklin faced Eustis-Farnam in the finals match.

Meade knocked in the team’s first goal about 40 seconds into the first round, followed 50 seconds later with a point from Boettcher.

Kolami moved up from his defensive position to press the attack and scored the team’s third point with 3:05 left in the match.

Seconds after the next kick-off, Eustis-Farnam scored it’s first point to make the total 3-1.

Boettcher put one in the net off a pass with 2:16 to go. In a quick series of attacks by Franklin, Boettcher scored twice more mere seconds within one another to make the score 6-1.

With 50 seconds left in the round, Meade found the goal once more for the final score of 7-1.

In the second round, Boettcher drew first blood in the first minute of play after taking a defensive save from Meade and turning it into a long shot on goal before Eustis-Farnam could stop it.

Seventeen seconds later, Franklin pressed the attack into Eustis-Farnam territory with Kolami pushing a rebounding shot into the goal.

A Boettcher pass to Meade upped the score to 3-0 in favor of Franklin with 2:56 left to go in the round.

After the kick-off, Eustis-Farnam put the ball in the net to keep from being shut out in the round, but Franklin answered with three more points to push the final score to 6-1.

Boettcher again put up the first point in the third game, followed by a second in the first 30 seconds of play.

Meade added two more points to the score before Eustis-Farnam earned their first point with one minute to go taking the total to 4-1.

Meade added a fifth point to Franklin’s score with eight seconds left in the round followed by another goal by Boettcher at the buzzer for a game final of 6-1.

Boettcher said the three were excited to win the Division 4 tournament and making quick attacks on the goal was part of the strategy.

“In that game, you don’t want to give anyone space,” he said. “It makes it harder to score. We just tryied to keep playing faster. We know how to take shots from any speed of the game.”

Kolami said that in the three years the trio have played "Rocket League" together, they have learned each other's strengths and can respond accordingly.

“We know each other’s play style,” he said. “Not everything is about scoring, but a lot of it is setting up to make those plays.”

Co-head coaches Phillip Baumgart and Doyle Hanshaw said the win capped a successful first year for Franklin’s esports program.

The two agreed to help start the program in addition to their regular duties as teachers in the school.

Baumgart coaches the school’s basketball and track teams. Hanshaw is the band director, speech coach and assistant golf coach.

Hanshaw said esports can open up opportunities at the collegiate level with more colleges offering scholarships for esport programs. Nine students were involved in the first year.

It also can help students stay involved at school, even if they aren’t inclined to join other team sports or clubs.

“We felt the time was right,” Hanshaw said. “We knew we could get more kids involved that may not get into other activities.”

Adam Boettcher, Franklin’s principal, said the district had been considering the idea of adding esports for three or four years, based on recent college visits.

“We couldn’t keep acting like gaming doesn’t exist,” he said. “Schools are offering scholarships. It’s a good opportunity for kids.”


Franklin wins fall state tournament in esports debut

Junior Evan Kolami almost didn’t participate in Franklin High School’s inaugural entry in the esports program, but his friends talked him into it and they went on to win their division Saturday at the Nebraska Schools eSports Association fall state high school tournament at Hastings College.

Kolami said he was focused on athletic programs like cross country and basketball and wasn’t sure if he would have the time in his schedule for another activity.

His friends, fellow juniors Gregory Boettcher and Levi Meade, convinced Kolami to join the newly-created esports team at Franklin High School to take their joy of the video game “Rocket League” to the next level.

“We’ve been playing since the fourth or fifth grade,” Meade said. “We’ve developed teamwork and communication and that helps.”

Competitors from across the state converged at the Hastings College Esports Arena in the Gray Center Friday and Saturday to test their video game skills against the top high school players in more than 70 NSeSA schools.

It was the first state tournament hosted by Hastings College Esports, which began its first full year of collegiate varsity competition this fall.

Matt Hinkel, NSeSA board president and teacher at Grand Island Northwest, said it was the fourth year of the fall season tournament, which involved weekly matches and playoffs to qualify.

NSeSA’s state competition includes three video games: “Valorant” is a five-person team game, “Rocket League” is a three-person team game and “Smash Brothers Ultimate” is a single-player combat game.

In each of four divisions based on school size, the top four teams for “Rocket League” and “Valorant,” and the top eight “Smash Brothers Ultimate” players qualified to compete in the fall tournament.

NSeSA will have two more state tournaments this year for the winter and spring seasons.

The Franklin High School Rocket League team qualified as well as Boettcher individually for “Smash Brothers Ultimate.” Boettcher won third place in that tournament.

“Rocket League” is a soccer-style video game in which competitors use vehicles to strike the game ball (which is about the same size as the vehicles) through the goal.

Cars race across the field or up walls of the arena to pass the ball between players or take a shot at the goal. Players have five minutes to rack up points with ties putting a game into overtime until one side scores a tie-breaking goal.

Franklin battled Walthill in the first match, with the best three of five games winning the match. Walthill scored first in the first 50 seconds of the first game.

Franklin made a goal to tie up the game with 1:47 in the game. Walthill answered back with a second point 26 seconds later. Franklin managed a second point with 52 seconds remaining to push the round into overtime.

Franklin’s Meade made a goal off a rebound to win the game in 22 seconds.

In the second game, Boettcher scored first with 3:06 left. Walthill tied up the match with 2:08 to go and Franklin retook the lead a minute later. With 34 seconds in the game, Walthill scored a second point to force another overtime point.

Meade took a shot at 38 seconds into overtime and the ball bounced off the frame around the goal, but Boettcher was there to push the rebound in to win the game.

By the third game, the Franklin team started to settle in and Boettcher scored in the first six seconds of the match. Franklin kept up the pressure, scoring four unanswered points to take the match 5-0 and earning a spot in the final round.

After the first match, Kolami said the team was slow to start off as they tried to get used to depth perception difference from the screens being closer in the esports arena than what they are used to at home.

“Everyone is starting to get used to it,” he said.

Franklin faced Eustis-Farnam in the finals match.

Meade knocked in the team’s first goal about 40 seconds into the first round, followed 50 seconds later with a point from Boettcher.

Kolami moved up from his defensive position to press the attack and scored the team’s third point with 3:05 left in the match.

Seconds after the next kick-off, Eustis-Farnam scored it’s first point to make the total 3-1.

Boettcher put one in the net off a pass with 2:16 to go. In a quick series of attacks by Franklin, Boettcher scored twice more mere seconds within one another to make the score 6-1.

With 50 seconds left in the round, Meade found the goal once more for the final score of 7-1.

In the second round, Boettcher drew first blood in the first minute of play after taking a defensive save from Meade and turning it into a long shot on goal before Eustis-Farnam could stop it.

Seventeen seconds later, Franklin pressed the attack into Eustis-Farnam territory with Kolami pushing a rebounding shot into the goal.

A Boettcher pass to Meade upped the score to 3-0 in favor of Franklin with 2:56 left to go in the round.

After the kick-off, Eustis-Farnam put the ball in the net to keep from being shut out in the round, but Franklin answered with three more points to push the final score to 6-1.

Boettcher again put up the first point in the third game, followed by a second in the first 30 seconds of play.

Meade added two more points to the score before Eustis-Farnam earned their first point with one minute to go taking the total to 4-1.

Meade added a fifth point to Franklin’s score with eight seconds left in the round followed by another goal by Boettcher at the buzzer for a game final of 6-1.

Boettcher said the three were excited to win the Division 4 tournament and making quick attacks on the goal was part of the strategy.

“In that game, you don’t want to give anyone space,” he said. “It makes it harder to score. We just tryied to keep playing faster. We know how to take shots from any speed of the game.”

Kolami said that in the three years the trio have played “Rocket League” together, they have learned each other’s strengths and can respond accordingly.

“We know each other’s play style,” he said. “Not everything is about scoring, but a lot of it is setting up to make those plays.”

Co-head coaches Phillip Baumgart and Doyle Hanshaw said the win capped a successful first year for Franklin’s esports program.

The two agreed to help start the program in addition to their regular duties as teachers in the school.

Baumgart coaches the school’s basketball and track teams. Hanshaw is the band director, speech coach and assistant golf coach.

Hanshaw said esports can open up opportunities at the collegiate level with more colleges offering scholarships for esport programs. Nine students were involved in the first year.

It also can help students stay involved at school, even if they aren’t inclined to join other team sports or clubs.

“We felt the time was right,” Hanshaw said. “We knew we could get more kids involved that may not get into other activities.”

Adam Boettcher, Franklin’s principal, said the district had been considering the idea of adding esports for three or four years, based on recent college visits.

“We couldn’t keep acting like gaming doesn’t exist,” he said. “Schools are offering scholarships. It’s a good opportunity for kids.”


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