Clearwater-Orchard's girls are hitting their stride at just the right time.
With just one game left before the conference tournament, the Cyclones are now winners of five straight, including two more on Tuesday.
The Cyclones hosted Plainview and St. Mary's in their final home games of the year, winning both.
Against Plainview, O-C won 25-23, 25-16. Much of the production came from the usual suspects, as Avery Cheatum led the attack with nine kills. JoCee Johnston added seven more kills, three blocks and put down two aces. Brooklynn Chipps added five more kills for Clearwater-Orchard.
It was a similar story for the Cyclones' matchup with St. Mary's as they took down the Cardinals 25-12, 25-23.
Johnston had another big game at the net, putting down nine kills. She was even more impressive from the serving line, recording four aces. Cheatum had four kills while Chipps and Katie Stearns each put down two more.
The Elgin Public/Pope John girls had to sweat it out a set longer than they had hoped, but they pulled out their tenth straight win to end the regular season on a high note.
The Wolfpack took down Burwell 25-12, 25-19, 24-26, 25-16. EPPJ dominated the first set before Burwell slowly began to find their groove. That culminated in a third set where the Longhorns were able to battle point-for-point with EPPJ and battling back from a four-point deficit to take the third set. However, the fourth set was all Wolfpack and Lydia Behnk was able to smash down a set-point kill for the win.
Behnk was one of four Wolfpack girls that finished with more than 10 kills on the night, part of EPPJ's 52 team kills. Paige Meis led the way with 16 on just 29 attempts. Grace Henn connected on 12 kills and Behnk and Kaylee Martinsen each put down 10. Martinsen was also very active at the net defensively, recording four blocks, including three solo.
Those four kept setters Allyson Wemhoff and Nicki Payne very busy. The two recorded 29 and 19 assists, respectively.
The win gives EPPJ a regular season record of 21-4. They now turn their attention to the conference and district tournaments, beginning with the NVC Tournament on Monday.
The brackets have now officially been released for the Niobrara Valley Conference volleyball tournament that is set to begin next Monday.
Ewing takes the top seed in the tournament. They await the winner of #8 Stuart versus #9 Boyd County. That game will take place in Ewing at 6:15 p.m. on Monday, with the winner taking on Ewing at 7:30 p.m.
The two seed goes to Elgin Public/Pope John. The Wolfpack await the winner of the contest between #7 Elkhorn Valley and #10 Neligh-Oakdale. First serve is scheduled for Monday at 6:15 p.m. in Elgin, with Elgin taking on the winner at 7:30 p.m.
The third seed is North Central. They await the winner of #6 Clearwater-Orchard and #11 St. Mary's. That game will be played at 6:15 p.m. in Springview with the North Central game to take place at 7:30.
The fourth seed went to Chambers/Wheeler Central. They will take on #13 Niobrara/Verdigre at 5 p.m. in Bartlett. The winner will go on to take on the winner of the battle between #5 West Holt and #12 Santee, who play at 6:15 p.m. in Bartlett.
To see the full bracket, click here.
The communities of Neligh and Oakdale are asked to go black on Friday, Oct. 20 — all day.
Don't worry, you can keep the lights on. Warrior fans are asking everyone in Neligh and Oakdale to wear black to support the Neligh-Oakdale football team on their final home game of the regular season. Fans are then asked to continue that support at the game, which is against Humphrey. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Warrior Field
Businesses are asked to take a photo and post it their Facebook page to show their support as well.
On Friday, one Antelope County team saw their season come to an end while another kept theirs alive for an extra week.
Elgin Public/Pope John hosted Neligh-Oakdale on parents night. The Warriors controlled the game from the opening snap, taking a 48-8 victory and locking up a playoff berth. The loss ends the Wolfpack's season at 0-8.
Neligh-Oakdale churned out just one touchdown in the first quarter before adding two more in the second to go into the break with a 20-0 lead. The Warriors turned up the heat in the second, scoring 20 points before each team found the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Much like it has all year, the EPPJ offense ran through Hunter Reestman. The junior finished with 186 yards on 20-of-35 passing. He also added 26 yards on the ground.
Kyle Schumacher accounted for 10 catches for 105 yards on the night. Conor Ramold had six grabs for 47 yards. Cameron Nielsen had three catches for 20 yards and Adam Dreger had two catches for 29 yards.
Defensively, Liam Heithoff led the attack, accounting for 13 tackles, including one for a loss.
Neligh-Oakdale showed off great efficiency on offense, averaging more than 11 yards per play en route to 407 total yards.
They finished with 195 yards through the air off the arms of Hunter Charf and Brock Kester. Charf missed on just one of his six attempts, finishing with 112 yards and a score. Kester added 83 yards on 3-of-5 passing and a touchdown.
Those scores went to Julien Hearn, who took it 59 yards on his only catch, and Austin Rice, who finished with four catches for 113 yards. Dawson Kaup added a catch for 24 yards.
Andrew Herley led the ground attack for the Warriors, going for 108 yards on just 10 carries and punching in three scores. Hearn was explosive on the ground as well, racking up 72 yards and a touchdown on just two carries. Charf added 41 yards on seven carries.
On Friday night, Clearwater-Orchard celebrated an annual tradition.
Before the football team took the field for one last home game in the 2017 season, the Cyclones celebrated parents night. Players were joined by their parents and siblings for pregame introductions before the showdown with West Holt.
Two of the top teams in Class D1 meet in Orchard on Friday with a district title on the line.
West Holt and Clearwater-Orchard went to battle with the Huskies coming away victorious 35-20 and locking up the district championship.
The Huskies started strong, pulling down an interception on O-C's Chris Kester on their first possession. They then drove it downfield and scored on a Payton Williams dive into the end zone. On their next drive, West Holt again scored, this time when quarterback Bryce Kerkman took a quarterback keeper 52 yards to pay dirt to put the Huskies up 14-0.
The two teams traded blows in the second quarter. Kerkman connected with Kooper Jelinek from just two yards out on the first play of the quarter to put the Huskies up 21-0. Clearwater-Orchard countered shortly after when Kester made his way into the end zone, set up by a beautiful 43-yard completion to Jacob Long.
Scoring was light in the third, with West Holt adding a Jordan Tasler score to go up 28-8.
In the fourth, it looked like Clearwater-Orchard was going to mount the comeback, started by a diving grab by Creston Bertschinger to make the game 28-14. Ryan Wilhelm then broke through the protection for a punt block that set O-C up on their 29 yard line. However, pick six by Shayden Neptune put the game out of reach. Austin Pokorny added a late touchdown grab with :30 to go from Kester to bring the game to a close.
Kester finished the day going 10-for-25 through the air for 161 yards and two scores. He also racked up 38 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
His top target on the day was Long, who had a huge day despite the loss. He hauled in four catches for 65 yards and added 66 yards on the ground on just 11 carries. The junior was also a defensive force for the Cyclones, tying Ryan Wilhelm for a team-high 13 tackles.
Clay Thiele had three catches for 39 yards, Bertschinger added two grabs for 42 yards and Pokorny had the one catch for 15 yards.
Thiele, Wilhelm and Andrew Steskal all recorded sacks on defense for Clearwater-Orchard.
For the last time in the regular season, Elgin Public/Pope John traveled elsewhere for a game. Much like the rest of the season, they returned home victorious.
This time, the Wolfpack took down Niobrara/Verdigre in straight sets 25-12, 25-11, 25-11.
They got a strong night out of their senior leaders Grace Henn and Lydia Behnk. They recorded eight and seven kills, respectively, to lead the Wolfpack attack.
Kaylee Martinsen and Allyson Wemhoff each had strong nights as well, with theirs coming from the service stripe. The two recorded three and two aces, respectively, as part of the Wolfpack's nine total aces.
Neligh-Oakdale closed out the volleyball regular season on Thursday with a tough triangular.
They took on O’Neill and Norfolk Catholic in Norfolk, falling to both squads. Against O’Neill, the Warriors were unable to pull out the win in a 25-14, 25-15 loss.
Amanda Dietz and Shelby Pitzer led the attack for Neligh-Oakdale, recording four kills each. Dietz was also strong at the net defensively, finishing the match with three blocks. Bailey Frey added two more blocks for the Warriors in the game.
Against the host school, the Warriors burst out of the gates with a huge first-set victory but ran out of steam in a three-set loss, 25-13, 13-25, 14-25.
Dietz again led the way, putting down nine kills. Frey accounted for four more and Jaclynn Hixson added three. Haley Kerkman showed off her serving skills, recording three aces in the match.
Neligh-Oakdale now awaits the announcement of seeding for the Niobrara Valley Conference Tournament which is set to begin October 23.
It was a display of true sportsmanship and genuine kindness.
The actions of Megan Erickson will be remembered long after the 2017 District D-5 Cross Country Meet in Ainsworth on Thursday.
Erickson, a senior runner from North Central, rounded the corner toward the finish line when she saw another runner go down. Her eyes were no longer on the finish line just 50 meters ahead. Without hesitation, she ran straight to sophomore Emma Bixler of Neligh-Oakdale.
“I saw her when I came around the corner,” Erickson said. “She was staggering side-to-side and falling. I just thought she deserved to cross the finish line, and if I could help her do that, I was going to.”
She reached around Bixler’s shoulders to keep her upright and walking toward the finish line. They were getting closer, both of them still easily in the top 15, even as some runners passed them. But even with help, Bixler struggled and went down. Erickson tried to allow her to cross the finish line on her own.
“I saw she couldn’t go,” she said. “I tried to hold her up. I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry her, so I just pulled her across. I wanted to help her so she could have as close to the place as she deserved.”
Erickson and Bixler were both disqualified. According to Ron Higdon, NSAA assistant director, “as soon as she helped her at all, it’s considered aiding.” He said if a runner receives assistance during a race, they are both disqualified, as clearly defined in the National Federation rules book.
Erickson said she “had a pretty good idea” that she would be disqualified for her actions and helped Bixler anyway.
Fortunately, the 18-year-old still is able to run at state next week because her team earned third place at districts, qualifying the entire team. Erickson said this will be her fourth straight appearance.
“I’m amazed and humbled that they could do it on their own,” she said.
The three juniors and one freshman came through for her. As the lone senior runner for her team that day, Erickson is setting an example for her team, and all of us.
For the first time in too long, the Neligh-Oakdale football team saw a game finish the way they wanted - with a win.
The Warriors got back into the win column for the first time since week two when they took down Pender 58-20 on Monday in a rescheduled game.
Although the Pendragons were able to jump on the board first, that didn't bother the Warriors, in particular Andrew Herley. He took the ensuing kickoff back 78 yards to get Neligh-Oakdale on the board. Later in the first quarter, Hunter Charf gave the Warriors the lead for good when he took it 31 yards to the house to give N-O a 14-8 lead.
In the second quarter, Charf found Austin Rice for a 38-yard score before the Warrior defense gave up another Pender score. N-O countered with two more scores before halftime, however, coming off the legs of Charf and Herley to go up 36-14 at half.
The Pendragons got their final score of the game early in the third quarter before Neligh-Oakdale reeled off 22 unanswered points. Charf, Herley and Julien Hearn all punched it in for scores for the Warriors to give them the 58-20 win.
The offense was clicking all night for the Warriors, to the tune of 379 total yards. Nearly 300 of that was on the ground, led by Charf's 176 yards and three scores. Herley added another 73 yards and two scores, Colton Klabenes had 18 yards, Brock Kester put in 15 yards and Nate Buck added six. Hearn had five yards and a score on his lone carry. The rushing output, coupled with the stout run defense, was a big part of the game on Monday.
"Defensively, I thought we were very good against the run. We were playing a team that had been very balanced offensively through their first five games and held them to 36 yards rushing," said coach Ron Beacom. "On the flip side, I thought we ran the ball very well, rushing for almost 300 yards. That's a great testament to what a great job our linemen were doing in the trenches on both sides of the ball."
Through the air, Charf completed 6-of-11 passes for 76 yards and a score. Kester added 10 yards on two completions. 63 of those yards went to Rice, who had four catches on the day. Hearn hauled in two grabs for 16 yards, Garret Belitz had a five yard catch and Herley had a two yard catch.
"It was exciting to see some of the younger kids really come of age," Beacom said of his team's effort. "We had some kids filling really hard defensively and running really hard on offense. It was a true team effort that saw a lot of kids contribute."
Arguably the most promising point of the night for the Warriors was the defensive effort. They allowed just 36 total rush yards and held Pender to 43 percent through the air. They got one takeaway on the night, an interception by Charf, as well as a blocked kick from Rice.
Klabenes led the defensive effort with 17 tackles. Herley added 14 tackles, Jayden Arehart recorded 13, Buck had 12 and Charf and Rice each were credited with 10 tackles.
"I'm so proud of our kids. They truly have been getting better every week. They've had a very workmen like attitude and a strong desire to improve. They are now starting to see the fruits of their labor," said Beacom.
Defense reigned supreme on Monday when Clearwater-Orchard and Neligh-Oakdale Junior High met at Warrior Field in Neligh.
It was a cold and misty day for much of the game, but the two teams still played their hardest. While each had their moments moving the ball, neither was able to find the end zone until quite literally the last minute thanks to strong defenses.
Neither team got a break until O-C was able to pound the ball downfield against a visibly tired Neligh-Oakdale defense during the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. The Warriors dug in and played tough on the goal line, but eventually the Cyclones were able to punch it in with 0:11 left on the clock to get the 6-0 win.
Orchard-Clearwater-Ewing traveled to Neligh on Monday for a showdown of cross county rivals in a junior high volleyball showdown.
The afternoon started off with a battle of the B Teams. Neligh-Oakdale controlled the first set, winning 25-17. However, the second set was all O-C-E as they took it 25-7. In the final set, Neligh-Oakdale bounced back with a 15-6 win.
In the A Team battle, it was a fairly similar result. All three battles were close ones. Neligh-Oakdale took the first set 25-19 before O-C-E squeezed out a 25-20 win in set two. In the final set, Neligh-Oakdale won an exciting one, taking it 15-13.
Antelope County runners earned 11 All-Conference honors at the Niobrara Valley Conference cross country meet on Friday.
Allison Stineman of Elkhorn Valley was the NVC conference champion with a time of 19:11. Also earning honors were Neligh-Oakdale's Emma Bixler with a 4th place finish in 19:46, followed by her teammates Hailey Bixler in 13th (22:57) and Rachel Higgins in 14th (23:09).
In the boys race, conference honors went to Hunter Bennett of EV in 2nd with a time of 16:42, followed by Brayden Effle of EV in 4th (16:52), Cole Belitz of N-O in 6th (17:08), Griffin Claussen of N-O in 11th (17:56), Christian Carothers of N-O in 12th (17:57), Damian Smith of EV in 14th (18:22), and Dillon Stewart of EV in 15th (18:25).
Neligh-Oakdale Coach Rick Eickholt was impressed with his team's efforts.
"Six All-Conference honorees ties the highest number we've achieved in one year," Eickholt said. "I'm especially proud of our only senior that raced today, as Rachel (Higgins) had a great charge down the last 800 meters to move her up 6 places and gain her first-ever All-Conference honors for cross country. Cole earned All-Conference honors for the third straight year and will have a chance next year to be our first-ever four time All-Conference honoree."
He said many runners ran their all-time personal bests, and Emma Bixler and Cole Belitz both set new school records for 5K races. Emma's time of 19:46 was 9 seconds faster than the old record held by Kasi Grosserode, and Cole ran a 17:08, breaking his own record set earlier in the year (17:34).
Those surpassing barriers they've never reached before were Emma 19 minutes; Hailey 22 minutes; Christian and Griffin 17 minutes; Cameron 18 minutes; Logan 19 minutes; and Dominque 22 minutes.
High school results:
Girls - 1. Allison Stineman, EV, 19:11; 4. Emma Bixler, N-O, 19:46; 13. Hailey Bixler, N-O,
22:57; 14. Rachel Higgins, N-O, 23:09; 18. Madi Grosserode, N-O, 23:46; and 24. Audrey Chvala, EV, 30:14. The Neligh-Oakdale girls finished 3rd overall in team scoring.
Boys - 2. Hunter Bennett, EV, 16:42; 4. Brayden Effle, EV, 16:52; 6. Cole Belitz, N-O, 17:08; 11. Griffin Claussen, N-O, 17:56; 12. Christian Carothers, N-O, 17:57; 14. Damian Smith, EV, 18:22; 15. Dillon Stewart, EV, 18:25; 16. Cameron Wilkinson, N-O, 18:26; 18. Isaiah Greenhalgh, EV, 18:49; 24. Logan McConnell, N-O, 19:47; and 34. Dominque Wright, N-O, 22:30. The Elkhorn Valley boys earned 3rd as a team and Neligh-Oakdale was 4th.
In the junior high division, seven Antelope County runners earned medals at the NVC meet.
Elkhorn Valley's Carney Black was 2nd in the JH girls race with a time of 10:03, followed by teammate Taylor Hasebroock in 6th (10:21) to claim medals for the falcons. Amaya Smith and Madison Schaffer, both of EV, finished in 14th and 16th, respectively.
In the JH boys race, medalists were Colten Rystrom of EV in 4th place (9:26); Ian Larson of EV 5th (9:29); Thomas Johnson of N-O 7th (9:44); Walter Furstenau of EV 8th (9:51); and Ashton Higgins of N-O 9th (9:53). Others competing in the boys race were Conner Klein of EV 11th (10:11); Nate Halsey of EV 13th (10:15); Dylan Wright of EV 14th (10:34); Vance Chance of N-O 15th (10:56); and Ethan Gregory of N-O 22nd (14:21).
Eickholt said Thomas Johnson and Ashton Higgins "both shaved about 20 seconds off of their times from the same course earlier this year to gain conference medals in the JH race."
Antelope County high school runners will compete again next week in separate district meets on Thursday, Oct. 12. Neligh-Oakdale will run in the D-5 meet at the Ainsworth Municipal Golf Course, and Elkhorn Valley will compete in the D-2 meet at the Twin Creeks Golf Club in Pender. The N-O girls race is set to begin at 4 p.m., and the EV girls race will begin at 4:30 p.m. The boys races will follow.
Conditions were fall from ideal, but Elgin Public/Pope John battled through the first half with Clarkson/Leigh. However, the second half was all Patriots as they took down the Wolfpack.
EPPJ and Clarkson/Leigh were in a tight battle until the mid-game break, heading into halftime with C/L leading just 32-30. However, the Patriots scored 36 unanswered points to take a 68-30 win.
Hunter Reestman had another strong night offensively for the Wolfpack. He threw for 101 yards while adding 31 more on the ground. Conor Ramold added 74 yards on the ground along with a score.
Reestman's primary targets were Ramold, Kyle Schumacher and Adam Dreger. Ramold pulled in three catches for 49 yards. Schumacher added two grabs for 44 yards and Dreger had one catch for 15 yards.
Defensively, Cameron Nielsen racked up a team-high 13 tackles. Schumacher and Reestman added 10 tackles each. Ramold had eight tackles, as did Liam Heithoff who recorded 3.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
If you were looking for some intense volleyball action on Thursday night, Clearwater was the place to find it.
Clearwater-Orchard hosted Wausa, Chambers/Wheeler Central and Elgin Public/Pope John for their double triangular with nearly every game being a battle.
The night started out with the Cyclones taking on Wausa and coming away with a two-set victory 25-14, 25-23.
Between the attacking of JoCee Johnston and Avery Cheatum and the success of the serving line, the Cyclones kept the Vikings on their heels all match. Johnston finished the match with a team-high nine kills, followed by five from Cheatum. As a team, the Cyclones put down seven aces, led by Katie Stearns's three. Grace Rittscher was all over the court defensively, leading the way with 12 digs.
The next Antelope County matchup saw EPPJ take on Chambers/Wheeler Central in arguably the most thrilling game of the night. The Wolfpack won out in three sets, but it wasn't without plenty of challenge.
The Wolfpack pulled off a comeback for the ages to win the first set 25-22 before the Renegades took the second 25-18. The final set saw EPPJ go up 12-2 before the Renegades stormed back to take the lead. However, with the set tied at 20, EPPJ was able to battle for a 25-23 victory. Grace Henn and Lydia Behnk gave the Renegades all they could handle on the attack, putting down 11 and eight kills, respectively. Kaylee Martinsen and Paige Meis added five kills each in the win.
While it would be reasonable to think the Wolfpack would show signs of exhaustion after a battle like that, they showed no signs of slowing down in the final showdown of the night agains the Cyclones. EPPJ was able to handle O-C in two sets, 25-15, 25-8. Meis led the Wolfpack attack with 10 kills while Johnston added seven for the Cyclones.
Neligh-Oakdale started strong on Tuesday in Creighton before ultimately falling to the strong Bulldog squad in three sets.
The Warriors battled the tough Creighton team in the first set, nearly taking it from Creighton. However, the Bulldogs came away the winners on the night in straight sets 26-24, 25-18, 25-14.
Full stats will be added as they become available.