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Let’s get it out of the way right away - the first week of football season was rough for Antelope County fans. For the first time in recent memory, the county went winless in a big way on opening weekend. No one is used to that. However, it will get better.
Lets start on Thursday with Elkhorn Valley. I expected them to come home from Winside with the win. Everything seemed to set up for it, and for the most part, it was starting to look that way midway through the third quarter. However, turnovers were a killer in the end. This team is still young. They have lots of talent and the running game showed well. However, it will be a rocky year as they continue to grow. Coach Dittmer and staff can correct the errors. They will have more chances at a win, so be patient.
Elgin Public/Pope John struggled to get anything going against Burwell, getting blanked. A reminder, though, that this is Burwell - the defending state champs and one of the favorites to make it back their again. For the second-straight year, the Wolfpack’s schedule is brutal. They are young again as well, with just a few experienced seniors. Coach Eisenhauer knows what he’s doing. They will have more chances at a win, so be patient.
Now, Neligh-Oakdale. They experienced their first 50-point or more loss since 2013 - a 52-point loss to Creighton after losing to the Bulldogs by 78 in 2012. The run defense struggled mightily and Creighton continued to pound the rock all night. That didn’t sit well with many, and I understand that. Again, these guys are young, with two-thirds of the roster being freshmen and sophomores. They’ll bounce back this week and Coach Beacom knows how to come back. They are talented and, you guessed it, they will have more chances at a win, so be patient.
Ladies and gentlemen, with each passing week we get even closer to another new fall sports season. Therefore, this week I’ll be knocking out two school for my candid look at the teams. Again, I’ll have more formal previews coming your way soon.
First, Clearwater-Orchard. On the football field, this could be a very good team. Coach Jeff Shabram has had plenty of experience with strong years and the talent is definitely there to do it again. Lots of young kids saw the field last year. Creston Bertschinger is a natural leader and Blake Hoke, Chris Kester, Clay Thiele and Ryan Wilhelm will be leaned on as leaders now as well. They could surprise this year.
The volleyballers are a team of potential. They lost some big talent to graduation, but have plenty of gifted youngsters. JoCee Johnston is as good of a player as any and will lead the team all year.
Now, Elgin Public/Pope John. The Wolfpack, too, had lots of young guys on the football field last year. Injuries were a struggle, but it could bode well for this year. There may not be a better lineman than Liam Heithoff in the area and Hunter Reestman will explode statistically if he can get a full season on the field.
The volleyball team only has to live up to last season - the best season in school history. Coach Tina Thiele-Blecher doesn’t struggle to keep her team motivated and focused and when she has the talent that EPPJ provides, it means special things. They lost a few very good players last year, but Paige Meis and Grace Henn will take the lead while Allyson Wemhoff will be tasked with controlling the pace of the game.
Guess what is back?
If you didn’t guess fall sports, well, that was the answer I was looking for. Sorry Game of Thrones fans.
I’ve had a chance to see a couple teams in preseason action and thought I’d share some of my thoughts, starting with Neligh-Oakdale.
On the football field, the Warriors have some holes to fill after losing an incredibly talented senior class last year. However, they’ve put in tons of work and it shows. The young kids are ready. Hunter Charf will fill in nicely at quarterback and Austin Rice, Andrew Herley and Nate Buck will bring good leadership to the young team.
On the volleyball court, don’t sleep on the young Warriors. They, too, graduated a lot of seniors, but the youngsters are very, very talented. The likes of Kristen Snodgrass, Bailey Frey, Haley Kerkman and Jaclynn Hixson will provide coach Hoefer and crew with a strong base to build on.
For the cross country kids, they return some good experience, led by Cole Belitz and Emma Bixler. No Warrior made their way to state last year, but they weren’t far off from sending multiple runners. Expect that to change this year.
Overall, N-O’s teams are young, but talented. They will have plenty of success in between a few speed bumps.
A year ago next week, I penned my personal feelings on the death of Sam Foltz, unofficially marking the start of my time as the Orchard/Antelope County News sports editor. I just want to take a second here to thank you, the reader, and the team that has made it possible to give you the most thorough sports coverage in Antelope County.
The whole year has been a learning experience for me, and it wouldn’t be possible to have done as well as we have without a team effort. I’m fortunate to have a great group of people to work with that are willing to help out where they are needed and some incredible parents that are willing to step in to make sure the students get the best coverage possible. I try my hardest to be at as many events as possible, but when I can’t be there, its great to know that people are willing to fill in.
I also appreciate the reader. Half the fun of this job is hearing how much people enjoy what we do. I aim to celebrate the accomplishments of all the talented individuals in the area. It’s great to hear the parents, grandparents, siblings and other family talking about our work. It makes it worth the time we put in. Again, thank you.
Finally. After 14 weeks of charging through the mental and physical struggles of prep, its show time. Everything you’ve worked for will be on display for the judges, your fellow competitors and the audience.
The day is a bit of a chore from start to finish. Just to get to the show, get checked in and get any tan touch ups done in time, you have to be up at 5 a.m. All the competitors showed up with the same three things - a cooler full of food, a bag with a change of clothes and confidence that the show is theirs to win.
What I found interesting during the whole ordeal was just how varying the bodies were. In the physique class, for example, there was a man that maybe struggled to top 140 on the scale but he was ridiculously lean. There were guys that looked like your prototypical linebacker. There were guys that clearly hadn’t stuck to their diet well during prep that were going to struggle on stage.
The whole day went by like a blur. You’re constantly eating and always thirsty. Once you hit the stage, any nerves you had are gone. As a matter of fact, all I really thought of up there was how sore I was getting from the constant posing. Then, at the end of it all, everyone went their separate ways in search of their favorite junk foods.
Overall, the experience was incredible. It really rewired my way of thinking when it comes to my health. I’m more lax on my eating, but still very conscientious on what I’m eating. I’m more deliberate with my workouts. Most of all, I’m just hungry to get back on stage next year.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Jason Gutz situation.
I didn’t know the man, but many did. The outpouring of love from the area for the family was outstanding. I was fortunate to see it at the baseball tournaments this weekend. Nobody wants to have to deal with a tragedy like that, but it is comforting to know the community has your back every step of the way.
Good on you, Northeast Nebraska. You make me proud to be back in small-town Nebraska again.
There may not have been a more mentally challenging time during prep for our bodybuilding show than that last week before show time - peak week.
After 13 weeks of prep, you are just ready to be done. You are ready to step on stage, find out your placings and then gorge on food. However, before you get to that point, you have to lock down and finish strong.
Ideally, at the start of peak week, your body looks like it is ready to go on stage. The whole week is meant to be used as one big maintenance week. You maintain a high amount of cardio, focus even more on eating properly and control your water intake in a way that gets your body looking even more lean on show day.
As a side note: for something that is as masculine-sounding as getting shredded and muscular, it really is quite contradictory to have to shave your legs, exfoliate and spray tan during peak week. But, whatever it takes to be ready for the show.
Anyway, once you power through peak week, Friday comes around. Its time to check in, get your tan and rest up before the main event - show time.
One of the most entertaining - and challenging - parts of bodybuilding is all the misinformation that comes along with it.
During my wife and I’s 14 weeks of prep, we heard it all. It seemed like every day someone said something to us in regards to our show that was blatantly wrong. It wasn’t any fault of their’s. I honestly had many of the same impressions before diving into a prep. Therefore, I thought I’d take this week to debunk a few myths of bodybuilding.
1. You have to starve yourself to get into contest shape.
There is no bigger fallacy surrounding bodybuilding than the belief that bodybuilders don’t eat. In fact, we both struggled to eat enough to keep up with the diet demands contest prep puts on your body. People think you’re not eating because you don’t take from the office donut offering or you aren’t indulging in fried foods and drinks together after work.
The thing is, you are replacing those foods with more nutrient-dense foods. Lots of eggs, chicken, fish and beef were consumed in the Lawson household during those 14 weeks of prep.
2. You can’t eat any carbs or fats.
This one I count as a half truth. I say that because one of the primary components of my diet was dropping my carb and fat intake, but I didn’t eliminate the two macronutrients altogether. In fact, it is just as important to hit your numbers for carb and fat intake as it is for protein intake as your body still needs those nutrients to function and keep your muscles intact.
Not all bodybuilders drop carbs and fats like I did. Some follow a high-fat diet, others do high-carb diets and some, like myself, took the high-protein approach. The ultimate goal for all of them is the same - put your body in a caloric deficit so that it must burn stored fat to make up for the lack of calories.
3. Only certain people can do it.
This particular myth really struck a cord with me every time I heard it. I heard reason after reason of why others thought it was a cool thing to do but they couldn’t do it themselves. One of the biggest excuses was that they didn’t have the body for it.
Everyone has a body for bodybuilding. It is how you prepare that body that makes the difference. If you think your genetics will prevent you from getting on stage and competing, you are wrong. I’m not a naturally blessed competitor. I gain fat quickly. I don’t gain muscle easily. However, I was willing to put in the work for 14 weeks to get myself into a place where I felt comfortable stepping on stage and competing. I had a body for it, my wife had a body for it and you have a body for it.
Last week, I competed in my first bodybuilding show. It was an incredible learning experience on many levels, so I thought it would be a good time to share some thoughts with you all.
Bodybuilding is the embodiment of the phrase “tip of the iceberg.” The part everyone sees is much less than what actually is involved in the process.
The part everyone sees is show day. The competitors get up on stage, all tanned out and (mostly) ripped and muscular.
However, the part that no one sees, the iceberg below the surface, is prep. Prep is when shows are really won. I know that sounds cliche, but it is true. Bodybuilding isn’t a sport that one ultra talented individual can walk on stage and come out on top without any prior practice. It takes weeks and weeks of prep to get stage ready. For my wife and I, it took 14 and if you asked me at all during that final week, I wanted even more.
Starting in early March, we began following a more stringent diet, tracking our protein, carbohydrate and fat intake each and every day. We also doubled down on our workout regimens. The wife and I were certainly no strangers to the gym, but we couldn’t use excuses to skip out on a day or two to sleep in. We also had to add some cardio to our routine, which if you ask me was like self mutilation.
Prep is the most challenging part of a show because everything that goes on is a mental struggle. You have to be disciplined with what you eat each and every day. Anytime you are tempted to cheat your diet, you risk putting yourself behind another competitor. If you skip a workout or take it easy on cardio, your body may not be as conditioned as the person you’ll be standing next to on stage. If you skip out on posing practice, thinking its not as important, you guarantee yourself a loss.
Prep was far and away the hardest part of the experience. Motivation is slow coming as you don’t see the fruits of your labor instantly. Its important to look for the small improvements each week rather than hoping to see the big jump all at once.
The all-star season is quickly coming to a close. Some of the most talented athletes in the area have had the joy of competing with and against old rivals one more time before heading off to college. All-star games are a well-earned finish to great careers, and each area athlete earned their spot.
Now, who can we expect to join the all-star clubs in the future? I’m going to take a stab at it. I went ahead and looked through the rosters of Neligh-Oakdale, Clearwater-Orchard, Elgin Public/Pope John and Elkhorn Valley and found plenty of players that stood out to me.
This isn’t intended to leave anyone out, but it is intended to point out who has stood out thus far throughout their high school careers.
Of course, a lot can happen between now and then, but let’s have some fun here. When going through and doing this, my only requirement is that I have had to see them in varsity action at some point. I guarantee this list could be revisited at the of every year and there will be many more athletes in contention.
Now, for some guesses:
2018: Nate Buck, Bailey Frey, N-O; Creston Bertschinger, Dominic Bolling, Allison Kerkman, Skye Schroeder, O-C; Kalen Dittrich, Brayden Effle, EV; Liam Heithoff, Grace Henn, Paige Meis, Calli Krebs, Ashton Evans, Lydia Behnk, EPPJ.
2019: Austin Rice, Andrew Herley, Jayden Arehart, Kristen Snodgrass, Cole Belitz, N-O; Chris Kester, Blake Hoke, Jacob Long, Ryan Wilhelm, Clay Thiele, Katie Stearns, O-C; Josh McFarland, Sierra Rystrom, Amber Miller, Hannah Ollendick, EV; Hunter Reestman, Kyle Schumacher, Allyson Wemhoff, EPPJ.
2020: Hunter Charf, Kaleb Pofahl, Shelby Pitzer, N-O; Gage Clifton, O-C; Prestin Vondra, Olivia Nall, EV; Conor Ramold, Kayce Kallhoff, EPPJ.
In a spring game that included arguably some of the most intriguing storylines in recent memory for Husker fans, it was Boone Central alum Wyatt Mazour that stole the show.
A crowd of nearly 80,000 fans packed into Memorial Stadium for the annual spring practice finale. Much of the focus was on the quarterbacks, with three of the four on the roster participating in their first action as Huskers. They certainly lived up to the hype, combining for 62 completions, 693 yards and five scores on the day.
Aside from the signal callers, the Albion alum proved to be the story of the day. The sophomore entered the game hoping to battle for a spot in the team's running back rotation. It may be safe to say after the game he more than got the attention of the coaches.
Mazour finished the day as both the leading rusher and receiver of the game for either team. Putting in work for both the white and red squads, he finished with six carries for 60 yards as well as six catches for 81 yards, totaling 141 yards on the day.
The performance from Mazour may have came as a shock to many fans on the day, but it was expected from the coaches. He nearly saw the field last season as a redshirt freshman until a concussion put him on the bench for the season. He returned from the injury this spring and was immediately expected to compete for a spot on special teams as a return specialist, but Saturday's performance will likely get him on the field a bit more often.
In fact, his performance was simply the culmination of a strong spring from Mazour. He's performed so well that he actually has earned his own nickname from head coach Mike Riley - Danny Woodhead. The comparisons between the two are endless. Both running backs came from small towns, where they were well-known locally for their talents.
However, neither garnered much for Division I football attention, mostly due to their small stature. What they lack in prototypical size, they make up for with speed and impressive quickness. Both also have a knack for doing everything well, whether it be running, receiving or protecting their quarterback. In fact, Mazour prides himself on being a complete back.
"I think I'm balanced. People see me and see my short stature, and they're just 'Oh he's a little small so he's going to try to make people miss.' I think I demonstrated this spring that I can run through tackles and that I can block when I'm needed to. Honestly, it just drives me more," he said.
While his impressive performance on Saturday was a great start, Mazour still must continue to battle to see the field. Once fall practice starts, he will be battling with returning backs Mikale Wilbon, Tre Bryant and Devine Ozigbo as well as incoming freshman Jaylin Bradley for playing time in the rotation. He also has history to fight, as the list of players that starred in the spring game only to never be heard from again is endless.
What he does have going for him is consistency. That consistency is what has continued to help him impress his coaches and make his case for nearly a year to see the field. If he continues his consistent rise as the season draws near again, Husker fans will see plenty of the pride of Albion, Nebraska on the field come Saturdays.