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From goose-eggs to gold for W-P football program

Monday, November 5, 2012

Steve Kodad/McCook Daily Gazette Wauneta-Palisade running back Connor Kayton (4) tries to escape the grasp of Elkhorn Valley defender Taylor Hanson (21) during six-man football state playoff semifinal action at Wauneta Friday, Nov. 2. Kayton rushed for 206 yards and scored five touchdowns to lead the Broncos to a 51-16 victory and a berth in the six-man state championship finals Nov. 9 in Kearney.
WAUNETA, Neb. -- Wauneta-Palisade football might just be the feel-good story of the 2012-13 Nebraska state high school sports campaign.

But the Broncos have one more chapter to write.

The rags-to-riches W-P team has gone from a long losing streak to an unbeaten season and a shot at a state championship. Wauneta-Palisade improved to 10-0 with a 51-16 romp over Elkhorn Valley in the state six-man football playoff semifinals Friday, Nov. 2, in Wauneta.

Steve Kodad/McCook Daily Gazette Wauneta-Palisade co-head football coaches Joseph Frecks (red hat) and Randy Geier (partially hidden behind Frecks) don't see the water bath coming from W-P senior Weylin Davis (31) and other teammates as the Broncos celebrate their win over Elkhorn Valley in the six-man state playoff semifinals..
The Broncos, the only unbeaten team in the state's six-man ranks, will face Sioux County for the six-man state playoff championship Nov. 9 in Kearney.

The long six-hour bus trip home back to Tilden for the Elkhorn Valley team probably felt a lot longer after the Broncos dominated Friday's semifinal contest.

The hosts were very rude in the opening minute of the contest. On the first play from scrimmage, W-P senior running back Connor Kayton broke free around left end and outran the EV defense for a 58-yard touchdown scamper. On the ensuing kickoff, Gage Crowel recovered an Elkhorn Valley fumble at the Falcons 12-yard line. Two plays later, Broncos fullback Jack McGraw bulled into the end zone from 5 yards out. Logan Bischoff's conversion pass to Hayden Pollmann put W-P ahead 13-0 with just 51 seconds elapsed in the contest.

Steve Kodad/McCook Daily Gazette Wauneta-Palisade receiver Hayden Pollmann watches the football settle into his hands for a successful conversion pass following the Broncos' second touchdown in the six-man state football playoff semifinals Nov. 2 against Elkhorn Valley. W-P beat the Falcons, 51-16.
The Falcons came right back with a touchdown drive covering 55 yards in five plays, with Taylor Hanson covering the final 3 yards. The PAT kick pulled Elkhorn Valley within 13-8 with 7:14 left in the first quarter.

The visitors would not score again until late in the final period, when the final outcome was all but decided.

The hosts capitalized on a stiff wind at their back in the second quarter. W-P had three scoring drives in the second period, with Kayton scoring on runs of 10, 7 and 4 yards to boost the Broncs to a 35-8 halftime lead.

Steve Kodad/McCook Daily Gazette Logan Bischoff (16) of Wauneta-Palisade runs for a big gain with Elkhorn Valley defender Jacob Heldt (24) in pursuit during six-man football semifinal action at Wauneta Nov. 2.
Elkhorn Valley was forced to punt into that stiff wind three times in the second quarter, resulting in great field position for the hosts.

McGRAW MADE a great defensive stop on the opening possession of the second half. The senior knifed through the Elkhorn Valley line to stop Hanson for a two-yard loss on fourth down at the EV 27-yard line. Four plays later, Jacob Maris threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Logan Bischoff to help the Broncos stretch the lead to 43-8.

The teams traded turnovers, then Elkhorn Valley was forced to punt, and Jacob Heldt got off a booming kick that rolled to the W-P 28. A 14-yard run by Kayton and a 25-yard rumble by McGraw had the Broncs knocking on the door again at the EV 13. Two plays later, Kayton scored on a 10-yard run to put the hosts in control at 51-8 with 1:45 remaining in the third quarter.

The visitors added a 43-yard touchdown run by Tyler Rautenberg late in the final period.

Kayton scored five touchdowns and rushed for 206 yards on 20 carries to pace the Broncos. Kayton also completed 3 of 4 passes for 47 yards. Jack McGraw added 57 rushing yards on 7 carries. W-P quarterback Jacob Maris also completed 2 of 3 passes for 29 yards. Bischoff led Broncos receivers with 4 catches for 52 yards. Weylin Davis also had one reception for 24 yards.

W-P CO-HEAD COACH Joseph Frecks said his team used the strong wind to their advantage.

"That was huge. We kind of played the wind," Frecks said. "We knew while we had the wind we had to take advantage of it. Against the wind, hold the ball, pound it at them. Our line blocked great again, I thought two weeks in a row they've just blocked spectacularly. Kayton runs hard, McGraw, he's a real bruiser, and Kayton's quick. It's a team game."

Frecks paraphrased a quote by co-head coach Randy Geier that probably epitomizes the W-P success this season -- "As long as no one cares who has the success, you can have great teams."

"The kids get along really well, a pretty close team. They all get along with each other," Frecks said. "There's no cheap stuff going on in practice. Our twos (back-ups), our guys that don't play a lot on Friday nights, they are always giving 100 percent effort all through practice.

"We tell them, a lot of times, that's the best defense or offense we see is in practice against our second team, our scout team. They do a great job -- 100-percent effort every week. We really push during practice, and they really step up in practice and allow us to play like this on Friday afternoon or night."

WHEN THE BRONCOS dropped from eight-man to six-man football to start the 2012 season, Wauneta-Palisade's program was riding a 14-game losing streak dating back to early in the 2010 season. Coach Frecks said the support of the communities in the school district was a big key to the team's success this fall.

"The community suffers through that losing streak about like the team does," Frecks said. "Wauneta-Palisade communities are just spectacular. They were supportive in (the losing) streak, and they're supportive here, and that's part of the reason why we have such great kids, because of the great community, and that's allowed us -- these kids -- to turn it around."

Frecks and Geier felt that the Broncos could have a solid team this fall, with a strong nucleus of seniors on the roster. Frecks said the season's success started in the weight room last summer with a dedicated bunch of players and their hard work. The team also benefitted from a healthy quarterback in Jacob Maris and Jack McGraw's return to the program. Coach Frecks said Maris missed the 2011 season due to injury, and McGraw did not play football for the Broncos last season.

"That's been huge, having those guys healthy and being able to play this year," Frecks said. "We kind of knew we had a chance to have some success. We weren't sure this (state finals) is where we would make it. We knew there was some good athletic kids with good attitudes."

McGraw said teamwork is a big key to his team's perfect season. The hard-hitting senior also said the team's work ethic has paid big dividends.

"We never thought it was possible (state finals), but we came out and we practiced hard, did the best that we could, and it's paid off extremely well.," McGraw said. "(At the start of the season), we knew we had to practice hard. We knew we had a good chance, we just had to really work at it. It's paid off. Playing six-man was new, but it's a lot of fun."

NOW THE BRONCOS have a shot at a perfect season, the final chapter in their rags-to-riches story.

Wauneta-Palisade, 10-0, will face 9-1 Sioux County for the six-man state championship Friday, Nov. 9. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium at Foster Field on the University of Nebraska-Kearney campus.

W-P entertained Sioux County Sept. 21, and the Broncos handed the Warriors their only loss of the season, a 39-28 decision.

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-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Tue, Nov 6, 2012, at 1:10 PM

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