While the scoreboard told one story Wednesday night in Bruning, Neligh-Oakdale coach Ron Beacom told another - one of how an injury-plagued team with just 16 players defied the odds to be a playoff contender.
Neligh-Oakdale may have lost 42-7 to top-seeded Bruning-Davenport-Shickley, but an emotional Beacom spent five minutes after the game commending the Warriors for their "special season" and turning around a once 1-39 program.
In his third year at Neligh-Oakdale, the Warriors have qualified for the playoffs each season. They lost to B-D-S in the first round in 2013, won their first playoff game in 2014, which the Warriors hosted. This year, Neligh-Oakdale won the district title and hosted the first round of playoffs with a dominating win over Pender.
Beacom said each Monday he went to school unsure of what to do as the injuries continued to mount, but "another kid would step up and play his tail off." At practices, Beacom told his coaches, "I don't know how to do this. We have to be creative. We don't have enough guys to practice today."
But the Warriors continued to improve and primarily win as they took a 6-2 record into playoffs as the eighth seed in an incredibly talented east division of the Class D1 bracket. The Warriors struggled against a bigger B-D-S team and ended the season at 7-3.
The Eagles were bigger in size and bigger in number. But bigger in heart? That's arguable.
"You guys responded, you did it and you got better. Because you continued to get better, you had a special season. You really did," Beacom said. "There's going to be a whole lot of things that you wish you would have done this or wish you would have done that. You need to look back at it for a second and say, 'Wow, we did that. Look at what you accomplished. Don't look at what might have been."
As opposing players and coaches met at midfield after the game Wednesday, B-D-S coach Christopher Ardissono put in perspective just what the Warriors had accomplished this season.
Beacom relayed that message to his players. He told Beacom, " 'We had a running clock for a quarter and a half' and his exact words to me were, 'I am so happy that we're going to be D2 next year because I want nothing to do with the group you have coming back.' "
A highly sought after coach, Beacom has turned around Neligh-Oakdale's football program. His post-game talks bring a larger crowd to the field than some teams see in their stands during a game. After Wednesday's loss, he reminded his players of what they've accomplished.
"You guys have built something now. Do you realize that when I took this job, one of my best friends at Aquinas said, 'Do you realize they were 1-39 the last five years?' And now people are saying, 'We don't want to play you.' That's what you've done in the last three years. All I can ask is you stay with it and build it."
Beacom complimented his seniors and told them he wants them to move on and be great men and be proud of being from Neligh-Oakdale.
"What I need you to do is go be the best men you can be. Be the best brothers you can be. Go do what you're going to do but do it well," he said. "When you go to college, there's going to be kids that go, 'Hey, where did you to school?' Say, 'I went to Neligh-Oakdale. We turned stuff around. We were good.' You can tell (them that) because you're going to do all of that with class."