The Warriors jumped out to a 21-0 lead early and ran away for the 46-22 victory. The win earned ninth-seeded Neligh-Oakdale a home game in the second round of playoffs against top-seeded and undefeated Creighton.
"It's a great feeling. I'm really happy for the kids, happy for the school, really happy for the community," Warrior coach Ron Beacom said. "It's huge for us right now because it creates a buzz. There's a lot of excitement, and it's building confidence."
Thursday marked the second time in two weeks that the teams played each other. The Wolfpack won the first game 36-20 on Oct. 17 to claim the district title. EPPJ racked up more than 300 yards rushing in what was their fourth-straight win.
Beacom, who is in his second year at Neligh-Oakdale, said while it’s difficult to play a team you just lost to, it’s equally as difficult to play a team you just beat.
"We just ran past things the first time. We were over pursuing, and we just needed to talk to the kids about doing some things fundamentally better. And they responded," Beacom said. "We just played really well, stopped their run game and made life difficult for them."
During Thursday’s playoff game, the Wolfpack were held to 115 yards rushing and 150 passing. Andrew Fangman had 80 yards receiving while Chad Bode was held to 55 yards rushing on 18 carries.
Neligh-Oakdale put up over 400 total yards with about 250 coming on the ground. Garett Allemang was the workhorse with 105 yards rushing. Through the air, sophomore quarterback Grant White connected with classmate Tyson Belitz three times for touchdowns.
Both teams played a clean game with less than a dozen penalties called all night.
Thursday’s win was the first playoff victory for Neligh-Oakdale since 2006. That’s also the last time the Warriors won a home playoff game. Their season ended that year at the hands of Creighton, the team the Warriors will face next week in the second round of playoffs.
The top-seeded Bulldogs will enter Warrior field in Neligh with a 9-0 record, having defeated Twin Loup 56-7 in their first-round game on Thursday.
"The bottom line is when you get to this point, you know the teams are better. That's the whole process of the playoffs. Teams get eliminated, and the strong survive," Beacom said. "All you have to do is win to move on. You don't have to do it pretty. At this point we go back to work as coaches and see what we think we can play to our strengths against no matter who it is."
He added about Creighton, "They're a good football team and have been for quite a while now. We're going to have to play really well, but at least we got them at Warrior Field."