After a lengthy absence, Lincoln High School football is back.

In 2016, the Links went 5-4 during the regular season, their first winning record in 12 years. Lincoln High also made the Nebraska state playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

Not suprisingly, NFA Nation is beaming with pride over the Links’ successful showing. And there is equal pride in Cedric Case, who was Lincoln High’s starting quarterback as a sophomore, and Chad Case, who is the Links’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“The 2015 season was my first year as offensive coordinator at Lincoln High,” said Chad Case, who is also NFA’s national director of nutrition and a certified QB coach. “We went 4-5 and that was a big accomplishment because it was the most wins we had in over a decade. We had been on some pretty hard times at Lincoln High. This past season, we had graduated quite a few seniors and we knew we had a strong group of kids coming back, a lot of talent, but we were going to be really young. Thankfully, we had a strong group of seniors pick up where last year’s seniors left off. They were great leaders for us this year.”

How young was Lincoln High in 2016? The Links started a total of 11 sophomores throughout the season on both sides of the ball.

“That is a lot of sophomores, and varsity football is meant for juniors and seniors,” Chad said. “But as far as expectations, I felt very confident. That group of sophomores, a lot of them were on the Silverbacks, and 16 of them came to Lincoln High with 11 becoming varsity starters.”

Chad Case coached the Star City Silverbacks, a Lincoln select football team, to national championship wins in 2013 and ’14.

Surreal season

“This past season, it was surreal to watch these young men I was coaching as 7- and 8-year olds, suddenly they’re playing varsity football,” Chad said. “I felt confident that we could compete and I thought, kind of quietly to myself, a goal I had in my mind was to see if we could make a run at the playoffs.”

It wasn’t looking too promising early when the Links lost their first three games, but Chad Case never stopped believing.

“I think a lot of that was the fact that we were so young,” he said. “We just had to keep our wits about ourselves, try to find ourselves as a team. I think it took those first three games to find out out who we were and be able to play with confidence. Once we started to really believe in what we were doing, the kids started playing fast and I think we as a coaching staff got better at identifying what our strengths were and we really started rolling after that.”

Cedric Case provided a huge spark, completing an astounding 133 of 197 pass attempts for 1,880 yards and 19 touchdowns. Equally impressive, the 6-foot-0, 165-pounder was intercepted just five times.

“I’m not surprised because I had been preparing to do those sort of things,” Cedric Case said. “I’ve been putting in the work in to do it and I was surrounded by a great group of backs and receivers and a great offensive line that really stepped up. We had a pretty young o-line, an inexperienced o-line who people were worried about. But they stepped up, matured quickly and they did a great job. They made my job so much easier. I had a lot of good coaching around me, too, so I wasn’t surprised because I felt I was prepared each and every week to execute our game plan.”

Playoff prowess

Saving his best for last, Cedric passed for 375 yards and 5 touchdowns in Lincoln High’s playoff game, a 55-34 loss to undefeated and eventual state champ Bellevue West.

“It was great to be a part of that, one because our school hadn’t seen that kind of success in a long time and two because my teammates really deserved it,” Cedric said. “We had been working for it all summer and it was great to see the seniors on our team finally get to the playoffs and our head coach (Mark Macke) finally get to the playoffs, Our school hadn’t done that in over a decade. I was proud of that and my teammates made it a whole lot easier on me.”

When the season was in the books, Lincoln High School ranked second in the state in passing, fourth in total yardage and fifth in scoring. In 2015, the Links ranked 20th in Nebraska in passing, 19th in total yardage and 20th in scoring.

Cedric Case broke four single-season school records in 2016 – passing yards, passing TDs, completions and completion percentage (.675).

“Obviously, as a father it’s pretty powerful to watch your son go out there and play and play so well,” Chad Case said. “The thing I’ve become so appreciative of in regards to Cedric is the way that he leads and who he is to his teammates. Those are things that are going to carry through the rest of your life. And that’s what is so wonderful about being with NFA, the men that he’s learned from. Obviously, as his father, I’d like to think I’ve had something to do with that, but it’s good to know he’s had these wonderful men in his life that are helping him to aspire to who he wants to become. It’s pretty powerful. To watch him on the field competing, it’s been one of those things where admittedly, I’ve become very accustomed to watching him perform well in pressure moments. But he just did a wonderful job and it was a lot of fun to watch.”

NFA influence

Chad Case is a veteran presence with NFA, and Cedric has been training with NFA since he was 9 years old.

“NFA is the base of where I learned everthing,” said Cedric, who finished fourth at the Duel among incoming sophomores last July. “Just going through that process with all the different coaches and flying around the nation and gettng to learn all these different tools, it just made me a better quarterback and a better leader and a better person.”

Both Cedric and Chad Case learned the R4 System through NFA, and the results showed this past season at Lincoln High.

“We started using the R4 at Lincoln High two years ago, my first year as the offensive coordinator,” Chad Case said. “I felt like we did a good job for Year 1, when it was all for the pass game. But I tend to be a perfectionist, and I truly want to be the best coach I can be. After that first season, I attended every R4 clinic Dub (Maddox) put on that I could get to. I traveled all over the country just so I could be a student and learn and I came back to Lincoln and started working with the coaches on the staff as far as how we were going to use it in our game-planning process. It was a game-changer. I’m actually really looking forward to going into Year 2 of using the R4 game-planning process because what I found this past season was it streamlined everything we were doing as far as game-prep, breaking down film, communication, having the same common language, being able to identify space.

“What I really liked is as the year progressed we were so much more efficient in our communication and also the players and coaches were all talking the same language,” Chad continued. “As a group, we were beginning to see the same things. It made play-calling so much easier because when we were on the sidelines and we’re making adjustments in game, and you don’t have a lot of time to do it, we were a lot more efficient.”

Cedric Case learned the R4 System during his NFA training and he also helped his teammates unleash its impressive results.

“It really helped,” Cedric said. “It helped everyone understand their position better. As a quarterback knowing the R4 system, I was able to explain to each of my receivers how they could use the R4 System, too. We started using it in the summer and we got more and more in depth into the fall. It made everything a lot easier for everybody on the team.”

Special relationship

JC Boice, NFA’s senior quarterbacks instructor, QB evaluations coordinator and director of business development and strategic alliances, had a strong feeling Chad and Cedric Case would make a major impact on Lincoln High’s varsity football program.

“NFA has a special relationship with Chad and Cedric Case,” Boice said. “We met them in Kansas City, Missouri when Cedric was in fifth grade. Initially, our relationship with them was our normal partnership we have with a player and his parents. It was soon very clear to us that Chad’s coaching career was going to accelerate and he showed a strong interest to incorporate NFA methodology into his coaching approach. Chad is the type of coach, and Cedric is the type of player, we love working with. They are very family-oriented, hard-working and willing to go the extra mile to do things the right way.

“It has been awesome,” Boice continued. “NFA has definitely made Cedric a better quarterback and helped assist Chad in becoming a more impacting coach while they have both made meaningful contributions that have benefited NFA and the NFA family. Chad is now our director of performance nutrition and is doing an outstanding job helping athletes develop healthy lifestyle patterns to maximize potential. Chad has also been an early adopter of NFA’s R4 System. That has helped power the incredibly explosive offense that Chad is operating at Lincoln High. I think the relationship has been a great testament to how good it can be when we can work with good people in a cooperative manner to create better opportunity in the game of football.”

As he looks forward to his junior season with the Links, Cedric Case is looking to be even better than he was as a standout sophomore.

“I want to become more of a run threat,” he said. “I’m working on becoming faster and I feel like I can help my team more if I can become more mobile outside of the pocket. I think that will come as I become bigger and stronger. I also want to become more and more of a leader. As a sophomore, it can be kind of challenging to step up and lead a lot of seniors and older guys. But my coaches have challenged me to become even more of a leader than I was last season.”