Neligh-Oakdale football (front row, left to right) Luke Jacobsen, Clayton Anderson, Tyson Belitz, Grant White, Chris Bentley, Pepper Marchant, Damon Arehart, (second row) Tucker Knust, Austin Rice, Daniel Thomas, Nate Buck, Andrew Herley, Jayden Arehart, (third row) Cameron Wiseman, Ashton Shabram, Colby Sehi, Hunter Charf, Kaleb Pofahl, (back row) Drew Jacobsen, Jason Simons, Matt Parr, Ron Beacom, George Loofe, Simon Beacom.
Neligh-Oakdale football may take the field with an asterisk next to their name all season due to being ruled ineligible for the 2016 playoffs, but coach Ron Beacom hopes that doesn’t stop the team from making its mark on class D2.
The Warriors return eight starters from last year’s 7-3 playoff team, including ultra-athletic quarterback Grant White, record-setting receiver Tyson Belitz and tight end Chris Bentley, who Beacom describes as the team’s best overall football player. Bentley is also an all-state candidate as a defensive end.
Neligh-Oakdale must work to find a new running back and build some depth, especially along the line, but they have as much talent as anyone is the class.
The Warriors will kick off the football season in a top 10 matchup with Creighton August 25.
Coach: Ron Beacom
2015 record: 7-3
2015 playoffs: Second round loss to BDS
Returning starters: six on offense, four on defense
Returning letter winners: Tyson Belitz, Sr., Grant White, Sr., Chris Bentley, Sr., Damon Arehart, Sr., Pepper Marchant, Sr., Nathan Buck, Jr., Andrew Herley, So., Austin Rice, So.
Players to watch: Tyson Belitz, Grant White, Chris Bentley
2016 outlook: “We will not be eligible for the play-offs, so we need to stay focused from week to week on the task at hand. Our first group is pretty good, but I’m not sure about our depth so we will need to stay healthy as well. Doing a better job of stopping our opponents’ run game will be of vital importance to our success as well.” - Coach Ron Beacom. Not being able to compete in the playoffs will prove to be a mental challenge that the Warriors will face weekly throughout the season. If they can find motivation besides the playoffs and find solid depth on both lines, it’s not a stretch to think Neligh-Oakdale can win seven games this season.