The Broncos will try to write a final chapter in their rags-to-riches saga in the Nebraska Six-Man State Football Championship Finals Friday, Nov. 9. W-P will face Sioux County in the six-man state title game at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium at Foster Field on the University of Nebraska-Kearney campus. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Wauneta-Palisade had fallen on hard times on the high school gridiron in recent years. The Broncos were regular participants in the state eight-man playoffs a handful of years ago.
IN 2008, the W-P downward slide began, as the Broncs won just two of eight games in Class D-1, including losses in each of their last five games. The next season, W-P dropped to Class D-2 (eight-man) and went 3-5, ending the season again on a five-game losing skid.
The Broncos went 1-1 to start the 2010 campaign, but a Sept. 10 win at Potter-Dix (34-28) would be the last 'W' for W-P for the rest of 2010 through the entire 2011 schedule.
A 77-20 loss to Medicine Valley in the final game of the 2011 season ran the W-P losing streak to 14 straight games.
DWINDLING ENROLLMENT helped the Wauneta-Palisade consolidated school district to drop to six-man football for the 2012 season.
Randy Geier and Joseph Frecks took over as co-head coaches of the W-P program. They got a senior-laden group to buy into their program, starting with weight room work last summer. The coaches thought they would field a very competitive team this fall, but the wins piled up early in the season.
The first true test came in the fourth game of the season, a Sept. 14 trip to Arthur County to face the three-time defending six-man state champion Wolves. W-P passed with flying colors, beating Arthur 63-24 while recording the highest single-game point total of the season.
The next week, the Broncos entertained Sioux County in a battle of undefeated teams. The hosts fell behind 22-8 early in the third quarter, but three W-P touchdowns in a three-minute span put the Broncs in control, 31-22, late in the third period.
Sioux County answered with a touchdown early in the final quarter, but W-P used a 70-yard drive for a clinching score late in the contest.
The Broncos won two more games to enter the final week of the regular season with a perfect 7-0 record. So did Silver Lake, W-P's final opponent. The winner of the Oct. 19 contest in Wauneta would gain the top seed in the six-man state playoffs. The hosts handled Silver Lake, 38-22 to cap the 8-0 season and enter the playoffs on a strong note.
Wauneta-Palisade topped Cody-Kilgore, 31-14, in the opening round of the playoffs before a 51-16 rout over Elkhorn Valley in the playoff semifinals last Friday.
BOTH TEAMS and their fans will face a long drive to get to Friday's state championship game in Kearney.
Harrison sits in the extreme northwest corner of the Nebraska panhandle, north of Scottsbluff and northwest of Alliance, According to Google Maps on-line, Sioux County High School is located approximately 340 miles from Kearney.
Wauneta is located about 150 miles from Kearney and just over 40 miles west of McCook.
THE BRONCOS have a two-headed monster in the offensive backfield in seniors Connor Kayton and Jack McGraw. Kayton, W-P's main outside rushing threat, gained 205 yards and scored five touchdowns in the playoff semifinal win over Elkhorn Valley. McGraw, a bruising fullback, added 57 yards on the ground.
Senior Jacob Maris runs the W-P offense, and the senior quarterback completed 2 of 3 passes against Elkhorn Valley. The Broncos will also have Kayton fling the football, as he completed 3 of 4 passes for 47 yards in the semifinals last Friday.
Seniors Logan Bischoff and Weylin Davis, plus juniors Wesley Anderjaska and Hayden Pollmann, will also be targets in the W-P passing attack.
SIOUX COUNTY takes a 9-1 record into Friday's state title game. The Warriors suffered their lone loss of the season at Wauneta-Palisade Sept. 21.
Sioux County, located in Harrison, Neb., has featured a potent offense this fall. The Warriors have been held below 40 points just three times this season, and have scored 66 or more points in three wins, including a 78-22 victory over Arcadia in the regular-season finale.
The Warriors opened the playoffs with a 52-6 home win over Arthur County, followed by a 48-35 win over Silver Lake in the semifinals last Friday at Harrison.
A 14-GAME losing streak turned into a 10-game winning streak and a shot at a state championship. Perhaps not quite "Hoosiers" sequel material, but for fans in Wauneta, Palisade and surrounding communities, an epic story with a final chapter to be written -- and hopefully with a happy ending for the W-P team and its supporters -- Friday night in Kearney.