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Neligh-Oakdale prepared for physical battle against Clarkson/Leigh in first state title game

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Stu Pospisil previews and predicts all the Nebraska state football championship games.

Neligh-Oakdale has played teams with physical offenses.

Howells-Dodge to start the season. North Platte St. Patrick’s last week in the Warriors getting to their first state final.

Their opponent in Monday’s 2:45 p.m. Eight Man-1 title game at Memorial Stadium will be another bruiser. But Clarkson/Leigh, with its option game, presents a new dimension.

“We’re going to have to be physical but also disciplined,’’ Warriors coach Ron Beacom said.

His team lost to Howells-Dodge 50-12. No shame there. The Jaguars were Eight Man-1 champs last year and are in the Eight Man-2 final earlier on Monday against Hitchcock County.

Third-ranked Neligh (11-1) hasn’t lost since. It beat top-ranked St. Patrick’s 50-28 in a game Beacom believed the odds were against it. But the Warriors executed well on a cold night, their line met the challenge and Aiden Kuester and their skill corps performed at a high level.

Kuester, who’s set several state and national records in eight-man for yardage and touchdown production, is the first player in state history to rush and pass for more than 2,000 yards each. He threw for 359 yards and rushed for 191 – 550 total yards – in his semifinal.

“He’s the real deal,’’ Clarkson/Leigh coach Jim Clarkson said. “He can run it, he can pass it. He’ll run you over. He'll run around you. He’s a tough customer for sure and he has a good supporting cast.

“They have a really good system. It’s very tough to stop. Ron runs a quick passing game, a screen game, that's definitely going to challenge us. “We're used to seeing double-tight end, smash mouth football, so we're going to have to adjust a little bit to that.”

Kyle Kasik needs to rush for 39 yards in the final to reach 2,000 for the season. The senior has scored 39 touchdowns and 278 points. His quarterback, Ryan Brichacek, has rushed for 731 yards and thrown for 545, the latter on only 46 attempts.

No. 4 Clarkson/Leigh’s only loss in its 11-1 campaign was on a Hail Mary pass by Cross County.

“That gave us the confidence that we could play with the best teams in the state,’’ coach Clarkson said. “I think that our guys needed to see that. We had that game won and then it ended up slipping through our fingers there at the end.

“That kick-started us on a nice little run here through the playoffs and to where we're at now.”​

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Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Email stu.pospisil@owh.com

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