Neligh-Oakdale earned their first win of the season Friday night, defeating Wakefield 51-38.
"I was extremely proud of our kids last night," Coach Ron Beacom said. "We showed a lot of resiliency and a little bit of mental toughness in fighting back from an early deficit. I'll take the blame for our early defensive issues. We probably didn't spend enough time in practice last week defending their option. Our kids responded well and implemented the changes we were making on the fly."
The Warriors were scoreless in the first quarter, but found the end zone twice in the second quarter. The first touchdown came on a 20-yard pass from Grant White to Chris Bentley. A 23-yard run by White put up 6 more before the half, and a pass from White to Marquis Granville was good for two. Neligh-Oakdale trailed 22-14 at halftime, but came out ready to battle in the second half.
A 46-yard pass from White to Bentley lit up the scoreboard in the third quarter, and White connected with Belitz through the air for two more. Later in the third, White found Belitz again. This time it was a 16-yard aerial attack for a touchdown. Granville pulled in a 9-yard catch from White for the final touchdown of the quarter. Belitz caught a pass from White for two. The Warriors took the lead, 36-30, heading into the fourth quarter.
Neligh-Oakdale continued building on its lead in the final quarter with a 1-yard touchdown dash by Garett Allemang. The pass from White to Bentley added two more. The Warriors found the end zone one last time as Granville ran it in from 9 yards out. Damon Arehart split the uprights for the extra point.
Defensively, the team stepped up their game as well. Blake Heithoff led the team in tackles with 18, followed by Casey Garcia with 17.
"Each week we seem to improve in one or more facets of the game," Beacom said. "We have really tried to turn the tide on turnovers. We were able to limit our own turnovers to one, and Tyson (Belitz) picked up a fumble recovery as well as an interception, and Chris Bentley got a fumble recovery on defense as well. The team has really bought into the process, and we are now starting to reap the benefits on game nights."
In their first road game, the Warriors rushed for 166 yards and tallied 291 yards in the air.
"We really won with a team effort last night," the coach said. "Seventeen kids saw action. Grant White really played well by keeping plays alive and making things happen offensively when things broke down. Garett Allemang, Tyson Belitz, Marquis Granville and Chris Bentley all had big nights on offense as well."
Click here for Neligh-Oakdale's complete game stats.