Much has been made about Neligh-Oakdale’s spectacular 2016 season. The Warriors dominated opponents to finish the season 8-0 for the first time since Neligh and Oakdale consolidated in the late 1960’s.
However, there is another team in Neligh history that can lay claim to the only other perfect regular season in Neligh.
In the early 1960’s, Neligh High School fielded one of the strongest football teams in the state. In 1961, the Warriors started the season 8-0 before falling to Battle Creek in the final game of the season. At the time, no organization sanctioned a state championship tournament, and the Warriors (then 8-1) played for, and won, the Husker Conference Championship.
After that strong season, the 1962 squad accomplished a rare feat of the perfect regular season.
Coached by Don Downs and Roger Berry, the Warriors rode their defense to an 8-0 record, allowing more than seven points just once all year. That one time was in the final game of the season, a 33-12 beat down of Battle Creek.
The Warriors, a Class B school at the time, started the year with a 7-0 win over Pierce. The following week, the offense found their stride to take down Bloomfield 26-7. They then topped Stanton (7-0), Albion (25- 6), Wayne (9-7), Madison (27-0), Plainview (20-0) and O’Neill (19- 6) before exacting their revenge on Battle Creek.
Sid Charf, a senior guard on the 1962 team, recalled the season fondly.
“We had a heck of a defense,” he said. “Gordon Rittscher was a three-time all-state tackle, Ralph Tichota was just a great running back. He even won one game with a field goal. Ralph Schrader was the quarterback.”
When recalling the differences between the team in 1962 compared to modern teams in Northeast Nebraska, one of the big differences was the number of people out.
“We had over 60 kids out for football,” Charf said.
The team still has reunions on occasion, with the most recent being their 50th anniversary in 2012 in which they had a float in the homecoming parade. Some players have passed, many have moved away and some are still in the area, but Charf said everyone still comes back when they decide to get together.
Charf was proud to see the success of this year’s team, which includes his own grandson, Hunter, and is excited for the future of the team. He believes the success of this season’s team lays a strong foundation for the future success of Warrior football.