Two years ago Clearwater-Orchard Warrior Field with a 37-36 win over the Neligh-Oakdale football team. On Thursday night, in a rain-soaked mess of a field, the Cyclones managed the same feat - another one-point victory in Neligh.
The Cyclones won 38-37.
“Huge win,” said Clearwater-Orchard coach Jeff Shabram. “We knew coming in that it was going to be a big one. By getting the ‘W’ here, it ensures the fact that we play a ninth game. We’re excited for that.”
The Cyclones are now 5-3 on the season while Neligh-Oakdale is 6-2. Both teams have qualified for the Class D1 playoffs. Brackets will be released on Saturday morning and both teams may have home-field advantage in the opener.
The Cyclones pulled ahead in the fourth quarter when Creston Bertschinger scored his second straight touchdown. This time on a 49-yard punt return. The Warrior bounced back and drove the field but couldn’t convert on the two yard line and turned the ball over on downs with just over one minute to play.
“We wondered, ‘Do we call a time out? Do we let them score? What do we do here?,’ ” Shabram said. “Finally, we said just let the kids play, and our kids made the plays and played hard at the end.”
It was the second loss of the season for the Warriors and easily the worst playing conditions either team had faced.
“I don’t want to make excuses because both teams played with the elements,” said Neligh-Oakdale coach Ron Beacom. “Unfortunately, on both of the last two downs, we weren’t able to hold onto the ball. Had we been able to get the handoff, I think we would have scored on that play and, obviously, it’s a different outcome.”
The Warriors were playing without senior Dylan Kaup who went out last week with a knee injury. Neligh-Oakdale was dealt another blow on Thursday as junior quarterback Grant White went down in the third quarter after a hard hit to the head and remained sidelined for the rest of the game.
"The difference in the fourth quarter was probably when their quarterback went down with a knee injury - and our defense just got aggressive," Shabram said.
Beacom said he was proud of how junior backup quarterback and wide receiver Tyson Belitz stepped in for White and how all of the players rallied in their new positions.
"I don't want to take anything away from them, but I'm still real proud of our kids," he said. "We've had the injury bug go through all year, and that's tough."
He added, "I'm proud of our kids. I think they did a good job and fought through some things."
Beacom said the game came down to which team could make the most plays, and the Cyclones came up with more plays at the right ties on Thursday.
OC senior Zach Martin was 25-of-42 passing for 301 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with both Bertshinger and Blake Kester for the scores. Kester had 124 yards receiving and 14 total tackles to lead the Cyclones.
First Quarter Summary
N-O Grant White 31 TD run (Robin Hahn PAT kick)
Second Quarter Summary
N-O Grant White 4 TD pass to Garett Allemang (PAT failed)
O-C Zach Martin 46 TD pass to Blake Kester (Creston Bertschinger PAT run)
N-O Grant White 65 TD pass to Garett Allemang (White PAT pass to Chris Bentley)
O-C Zach Martin 4 TD run (Martin PAT pass to Creston Bertschinger)
O-C Zach Martin 2 TD run (Martin PAT pass to Blake Kester)
Third Quarter Summary
N-O Grant White 73 punt return for TD (White PAT run)
N-O Garett Allemang 1 TD run (Andrew Herley PAT run)
O-C Zach Martin 45 TD pass to Creston Bertschinger (Martin PAT run)
Fourth Quarter Summary
O-C Creston Bertschinger 49 punt retur for TD (PAT failed)