Despite finishing as just one of just two undefeated teams in Class C1, the O'Neill Eagles somehow still seem to be constantly overlooked.
The Eagles entered a second-round game against Aquinas Catholic with many fans overlooking the strong Eagles in favor of the defending state champion. However, thanks to a dominant defense and potentially the catch of the year by Wyatt Liewer, O'Neill slid past the Monarchs before topping Boys Town en route to Memorial Stadium.
In that game with Aquinas Catholic, the Eagle defense held the Monarchs, who were averaging almost 37 points per game, to just 12 points. That game exemplified the Eagles' entire season, as a strong defense has helped O'Neill make their way to the state championship for the third time in school history and the first since the game was moved to Memorial Stadium.
O'Neill started the season with three-straight shutouts. For the season, they only gave up an average of approximately nine points per game. That defense has been led by senior Jake Young who finished with an outstanding 140 total tackles and three interceptions in 2016. The Eagles also boast a fantastic defensive line, led by Chance Sholes and Jason Hahlbeck. Both players finished with three sacks on the year. Hahlbeck also racked up 16 tackles for a loss while Sholes racked up 13 tackles for a loss. The defensive backfield is led by Liewer, who has brought in four interceptions this season.
The defense hasn't been the only ones to see success in 2016. The Eagles offense is a balanced attack that can put opponents in the hole fast. Quarterback Alex Thramer keeps everything moving. He has passed for nearly 2,000 yards and 26 touchdowns, all without throwing a single interception. His primary targets are big-play receivers Liewer and Justin Appleby. The duo has combined for 1,267 yards and 19 touchdowns this year. On the ground, the Eagles get it done with the legs of Bailey Thompson, who has a chance to finish with more than 1,000 yards with a solid game Tuesday. He currently has 884 yards and nine touchdowns.
Standing in the way of the Eagles' first state championship is a powerful Bishop Neumann squad.
The Cavaliers are led by University of Central Florida recruit Noah Vedral. Vedral has thrown for 1,814 yards and 20 touchdowns on the year while rushing for 655 yards and another two scores. His primary target in the passing game has been Reid Jurgensmeier who has 800 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns.
On the ground, Trevin Rezac leads Bishop Neumann with 1,031 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, Theo Blum leads a Cavalier defense that has given up just 10 yards per game. Blum has racked up 101 tackles and seven tackles for a loss. They boast an impressive defensive backfield of Eli Vedral and Jaxon Simons who have brought in five and seven interceptions, respectively.
The Eagles hope to shut down the Cavaliers' attack Tuesday when they meet at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln at 2:45 P.M. The game is scheduled to be televised on NET.