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Neligh-Oakdale’s senior class just might rank as one of the best in the nation.
The Warriors' season ended Friday with a perfect 8-0 mark. The district champions are ineligible for the playoffs due to enrollment numbers, but it's the other numbers that have really left their mark on the national 8-man charts.
Seniors Damon Arehart, Grant White, Tyson Belitz, Chris Bentley and Pepper Marchant are ranked among the nation’s best of 8-man players in their respective categories, including several in the top five. Clayton Anderson and Luke Jacobsen, also Neligh-Oakdale seniors, were plagued with injuries this season.
Special teams are often one of the least talked about aspects of football, but Arehart owned the kicking game in every contest. He finishes No. 1 in the state and No. 2 in the nation in kickoffs with 3,443 yards, including 47 touchbacks. Arehart ranks second in Nebraska with PATs and fourth nationally and third in field goals (ninth in the nation).
White has the highest quarterback rating in the nation at 156.3. He’s fifth in the nation for yards with 1,798, which leads Nebraska. He averaged a state-leading 224.8 yards per game.
With those kinds of numbers, it’s no surprise Neligh-Oakdale also dominated the receiving stats with the Belitz-Bentley combination.
Belitz averaged 97.5 yards per game for his state-leading 780 total. That number put him fifth in the nation for 8-man. He averaged 15.9 yards per catch and had 11 touchdowns.
But Belitz didn’t have the most touchdowns all year. That title went to his teammate. Bentley led the state with 14 receiving touchdowns, averaging 20.6 yards per catch and 69.5 per game for his 556-yard total.
Bentley also made his mark defensively with seven sacks, which was good enough for ninth in the state.
He wasn’t the only Warrior defender to put up some big numbers. Pepper Marchant picked off six interceptions to average .8 per game. That’s the third-best of all defenders in Nebraska and 25th in the nation among 8-man players.