The 2016 Fall Sports Season was a thriller week in and week out. Athletes all across Antelope, Boone, Knox and Holt counties put in work on and off the field and showed up when it was game time and proved themselves as the top performers every week.
With that, we are proud to announce the inaugural Local County News All-Area Teams. 25 of the top football and volleyball players, as well as 15 of the top boy and girl cross country runners proved themselves as elite among their peers each week. It wasn’t easy narrowing down so many athletes to such a small list but thanks to some help from area coaches, everyone on these lists are deserving of the accolades they have received.
Holt County was spoiled by great football, as evidenced by the nine players on this team and a state championship.
Connor Croxen, Sr., Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing, WR/CB: Croxen was one of many big-play threats for the Renegades. He served as one of the top receivers and was among the state leaders in interceptions. He finished with 549 yards receiving and seven touchdowns, all while racking up eight interceptions.
Josh Cuddy, Sr., St. Mary’s, QB/S: Cuddy was a do-everything man for the Cardinals. He led them to a five-win improvement over last season from his quarterback spot. He passed for 632 yards and 8 touchdowns while running for another 897 yards and 22 touchdowns. He proved to be a good defender as well, recording 85 tackles and four interceptions.
Franklin Fessler, Sr., Stuart, RB/LB: Fessler was an outstanding defender for the Broncos. His 117 tackles led the team and his four sacks and four interceptions showed his versatility.
Nicholas Haburchak, Sr., Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing, RB/LB: Haburchak was one of the more overshadowed players in the area for much of the year. However, after the injury to teammate Daniel Libolt, Haburchak took over as the primary back and shined. He racked up 700 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and 167 receiving yards. He was even better at linebacker, bringing down 128 tackles.
Jason Hahlbeck, Sr., O’Neill, T/DE: One coach called Hahlbeck the best defensive lineman his team saw all season. He led an Eagle defense that was lock down from the opening snap of week one. He racked up 100 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss and three sacks.
Daniel Libolt, Jr., Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing, RB/LB: A players who's stats would have been more eye-popping had he not missed a few games due to injury, Libolt may be the most exciting player in eight man. He finished the season with 818 yards on the ground with 13 touchdowns. He also was a threat through the air, hauling in 347 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. He is a thumper at linebacker also, racking up 70 tackles.
Breydon Mlady, Sr., West Holt, RB/LB: Another player who's season was marked by injuries, Mlady was a big-play guy for a strong running attack by the Huskies. He finished the season with 922 yards on just 170 carries and totaled 16 touchdowns.
Shayden Neptune, Jr., West Holt, WR/S: Neptune was the definition of an eraser from his safety spot. He finished the year with an outstanding 155 tackles and six interceptions for the Huskies.
Alex Thramer, Jr., O’Neill, QB/LB: How good was Thramer's season? He put the ball in the air 215 times and never once threw an interception. He led the Eagles to their first-ever state championship and proved himself among the top quarterbacks in C1. He finished the year with 2,211 yards through the air and 27 touchdowns and added nine more on the ground.
Holt County was also spoiled on the hard court, as two teams qualified for the state tournament in 2016.
Hattie Blumenstock, Sr., St. Mary’s: A powerful presence for the Cardinals, Blumenstock helped lead them to their fifth-straight state tournament in 2016. She finished the year with 239 kills and 122 total blocks.
Taylor Colman, Sr., St. Mary’s: Colman proved herself to be an elite passer in 2016. She wracked up an incredible 885 assists, spreading the ball around to the team's playmakers. She also brought up an impressive 212 digs.
Logan Connot, Sr., St. Mary’s: Connot was one of two master attackers for St. Mary's. She finished the year with 239 kills and 125 total blocks after leading the Cardinals to state yet again.
Regan Dierks, Sr., Chambers/Wheeler Central: A great net player, Dierks was truly a strong all-around player for the Renegades. She filled the stat sheet for CWC, finishing with 265 kills, 50 aces, 83 blocks and 142 digs.
Harlee Fischer, Sr., Stuart: When talking to area coaches about top players, Fischer's name was one of the first to come out. She was the focal point of the Broncos squad, finishing the season with 320 kills and 330 digs in 2016.
Bailey Kraus, Jr., West Holt: Kraus was the leader on a feisty Huskies squad. She finished the year with 143 kills, 73 blocks and an impressive 203 digs.
Jacie Laetsch, Sr., Chambers/Wheeler Central: Few players can boast the power of Laetsch at the net. She played with aggression and authority all year and led the Renegades to a state tournament trip. She finished the year with an outstanding 467 kills, 76 aces, 62 blocks and 273 digs.
Alison Stracke, Sr., Stuart: Stracke was brilliant as a setter in 2016. She dished out 598 assists and brought up 226 digs. She was also excellent from the service stripe, recording 70 aces.
Brandon Heller, West Holt: Heller was one of two fantastic runner for the Huskies in 2016. He recorded a best time of 18:49.7 and qualified for state as well, recording a time of 19:00.9.
Nathaniel Jennings, O’Neill: O'Neill certainly wasn't lacking in good runners and Jennings was one of the best. He recorded a best time of 17:32.0 and ran a 19:04.1 at state.
Derek Mahony, Chambers/Wheeler Central: Mahony was a regular among the top runners all year. He recorded a top finish of 19:03.0 this season.
Caden Moore, O’Neill: Another great O'Neill runner, Moore recorded a best time of 17:41.0 in 2016. At state, he finished in 19:28.2.
McCoy Strong, O’Neill: Of all those great O'Neill runners, Strong may have been the best this year. He ran a top time of 17:21.0 and ran 18:43.7 at state.
Ben Thiele, West Holt: Thiele was another fantastic runner for the Huskies in 2016. He ran a top time of 18:02.2 at the state meet in Kearney.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
As good as the boys were, the Holt County girls were just as good in 2016.
Kira Dickau, Stuart: Dickau has been one of the top runners in Holt County for a couple years now. She ran a top time of 21:05.9 at state, good enough for 17th.
Taya Rainforth, O’Neill: Rainforth was yet another outstanding runner for the Eagles. She ran a top time of 22:40.0 in 2016.
Alyssa Reiman, West Holt: Reiman led West Holt all season, posting a top time of 22:14.9. Her time at state was 22:24.3.
Whitney Watson, O’Neill: Watson was excellent all season for the Eagles, posting a top time of 20:50.0 and running 22:02.1 at the state meet.
The full all-area list, including athletes from Antelope, Boone and Knox counties, is below, listed alphabetically:
Tyson Belitz, Sr., Neligh-Oakdale, WR/LB: 780 yards receiving, 11 touchdowns, 90 tackles, three interceptions
Chris Bentley, Sr., Neligh-Oakdale, E/DE: 556 yards receiving, 14 touchdowns, 62 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, seven sacks
Creston Bertschinger, Jr., Clearwater-Orchard, RB/LB: 1,199 all-purpose yards, 10 total touchdowns, 84 tackles
Brady Brockhaus, Jr., Creighton, WR/DB: 494 yards receiving, 10 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
Tanner Crosley, Sr., Crofton, RB: 1,551 rushing yards, 23 touchdowns
Connor Croxen, Sr.,, Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing, WR/CB: 549 receiving yards, seven touchdowns, 70 tackles, eight interceptions
Josh Cuddy, Sr.,, St. Mary’s, QB/S: 632 yards passing, eight touchdowns, 897 yards rushing, 22 touchdowns, 85 tackles, four interceptions
Franklin Fessler, Sr., Stuart, RB/LB: 117 tackles, four sacks, four interceptions
Dylan Gentrup, Jr., Boone Central/Newman Grove, QB/CB: 1,111 yards passing, 13 touchdowns, 1,060 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns
Nicholas Haburchak, Sr., Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing, RB/LB: 700 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns, 167 yards receiving, 128 tackles
Jason Hahlbeck, Sr., O’Neill, T/DE: 100 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, three sacks
Liam Heithoff, Jr., Elgin Public/Pope John, G/DE: 105 total tackles, 52 solo tackles (new school record)
Daniel Libolt, Jr., Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing, RB/LB: 818 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns, 341 yards receiving, seven touchdowns, 70 tackles
Josh McFarland, So., Elkhorn Valley, QB/LB: 413 yards passing, 337 yards rushing, five touchdowns, 75 tackles, three interceptions
Breydon Mlady, Sr., West Holt, RB/LB: 922 yards rushing, 16 total touchdowns
Quinten Moles, Jr., Bloomfield, QB/CB: 2,511 yards rushing, 34 touchdowns
Sam Morrill, Sr., Creighton, G/LB: 124 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries
Shayden Neptune, Jr., West Holt, WR/S: 155 tackles, six interceptions
Ryan Neumann, Sr., Creighton, QB/S: 1,344 yards passing, 23 touchdowns, 1,675 yards rushing, 33 touchdowns, two kick return touchdowns
Braydon Olson, Sr., St. Edward, RB/CB: 1,586 yards rushing, 31 touchdowns
Kevin Rudloff, Sr., Niobrara/Verdigre, RB/S: 918 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns
Alex Thramer, Jr., O’Neill, QB/LB: 1,969 yards passing, 26 touchdowns, 339 yards rushing, six touchdowns
Noah Valasek, Sr., Riverside, QB/S: 1,008 yards passing, 25 touchdowns, 888 yards rushing, 22 touchdowns
Grant White, Sr., Neligh-Oakdale, QB/S: 1,798 yards passing, 32 touchdowns, 266 yards rushing, five touchdowns
Bryce Zimmerer, So., Creighton, RB/CB: 1,488 yards rushing, 24 touchdowns, 223 receiving yards, four touchdowns
Kirsten Adams, So., Creighton: 166 kills, 105 blocks
Monica Arens, Sr., Crofton: 360 kills, 79 blocks
Hattie Blumenstock, Sr., St. Mary’s: 239 kills, 122 total blocks
Peyton Clifton, Sr., Clearwater-Orchard: 128 digs, 357 assists, 46 aces
Taylor Colman, Sr., St. Mary’s: 885 assists, 212 digs
Logan Connot, Sr., St. Mary’s: 239 kills, 125 total blocks
Regan Dierks, Sr., Chambers/Wheeler Central: 265 kills, 50 aces, 83 blocks, 142 digs
Harlee Fischer, Sr., Stuart: 320 kills, 330 digs
Nikki Grosserode, Sr., Neligh-Oakdale: 148 kills, 29 aces, 189 digs
JoCee Johnston, So., Clearwater-Orchard: 253 kills, 88 blocks, 31 aces
Jenna Kramer, Sr., Boone Central/Newman Grove: 258 kills, 27 aces
Bailey Kraus, Jr., West Holt: 143 kills, 73 blocks, 203 digs
Jacie Laetsch, Sr., Chambers/Wheeler Central: 467 kills, 76 aces, 62 blocks, 273 digs
Jordan Mescher, Sr., Elgin Public/Pope John: 268 digs, 92 percent serving
Amber Miller, So., Elkhorn Valley: 70 aces (new school record), 285 digs, 300 assists
Amy Nelson, Sr., Elgin Public/Pope John: 203 kills, 70 blocks
Alyssa Rood, Sr., Elkhorn Valley: 285 digs, 36 aces, 113 kills
Kelsey Sanger, Sr., Crofton: 308 kills, 77 aces, 59 blocks, 437 digs
Grace Schalk, Jr., Riverside: 148 kills, 56 aces
Liz Selting, Sr., Elgin Public/Pope John: 324 kills, 105 digs, 42 blocks
Alison Stracke, Sr., Stuart: 70 aces, 598 assists, 226 digs
Chase Vleck, Sr., Neligh-Oakdale: 224 kills, 37 aces, 195 digs
Maddie Walkowiak, Jr., Riverside: 329 kills, 45 aces, 27 blocks
Baylee Wlaschin, Sr., Riverside: 790 assists, 52 aces
Nicole Woebecke, Jr., Boone Central/Newman Grove: 143 kills, 36 aces, 200 digs
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
Tanner Arens, Crofton: Best time of 18:18.78, State time of 18:18.78
Cole Belitz, Neligh-Oakdale: Best time of 17:36
Braydon Effle, Elkhorn Valley: Best time of 19:05.0
Thomas Hosford, Boone Central/Newman Grove: Best time of 18:43.0
Garrison Hazen, Creighton: Best time of 17:48.0. State time of 18:03.6
Zac Hazen, Creighton: Best time of 18:48.8. State time of 19:44.8
Brandon Heller, West Holt: Best time of 18:49.7. State time of 19:00.9
Tyler Janssen, Crofton: Best time of 18:06.33. State time of 18:33.78
Nathaniel Jennings, O’Neill: Best time of 17:32.0. State time of 19:04.1
Derek Mahony, Chambers/Wheeler Central: Best time of 19:03.0
Austin Miller, Elkhorn Valley: Best time of 18:04.0. State time of 18:37.4
Caden Moore, O’Neill: Best time of 17:41.0. State time of 19:28.2
Jake Neuhalfen, Crofton: Best time of 17:02.4. State time of 17:03.72
McCoy Strong, O’Neill: Best time of 17:21.0. State time of 18:43.7
Ben Thiele, West Holt: Best time of 18:02.2. State time of 18:02.2
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Haley Arens, Crofton: Best time of 19:35.0. State time of 19:35.0
Amber Berger, Riverside: Best time of 22:37.6. State time of 23:14.6
Mariah Dendinger, Crofton: Best time of 22:59.0. State time of 22:59.0
Kira Dickau, Stuart: Best time of 21:05.9. State time of 21:05.9
Bree Eisenhauer, Bloomfield/Wausa: Best time of 20:47.2. State time of 20:47.2
Katie Goodwater, Boone Central/Newman Grove: Best time of 20:23.0. State time of 21:19.0
Kasi Grosserode, Neligh-Oakdale: Best time of 23:10.0
Jessica Lange, Crofton: Best time of 23:14.0. State time of 23:14.0
Taya Rainforth, O’Neill: Best time of 22:40.0
Alyssa Reiman, West Holt: Best time of 22:14.9. State time of 22:24.3
Christina Soto-Stopak, Boone Central/Newman Grove: Best time of 19:25.0. State time of 20:22.9
Alison Stineman, Elkhorn Valley: Best time of 19:20.0. State time of 21:24.1
Whitney Watson, O’Neill: Best time of 20:50.0. State time of 22:02.1
Ann Woockman, Bloomfield/Wausa: Best time of 22:02.48. State time of 23:13.3
Krista Zavadil, Crofton: Best time of 22:12.9. State time of 22:12.9
HONORABLE MENTION, FOOTBALL
St. Mary's - Will Atkeson, Pete Blumenstock, Zac Wiese
Wausa - Ghatlin Hegge
Clearwater-Orchard - Travis Kerkman
Boone Central/Newman Grove - Dalton Wagner, Cody Nelson, Levi Kruger
O'Neill - Bailey Thompson, Wyatt Liewer, Justin Appleby, Jake Young
West Holt - Jake Judge
Elgin Public/Pope John - Chad Bode, Miles Schrage
Elkhorn Valley - Shawn Klinetobe, Dylan Wilkins
Creighton - Travis Tyler
Crofton - Grant Wragge, Dylan Potts
Bloomfield - Luke Fehringer
Neligh-Oakdale - Damon Arehart, Pepper Marchant
Riverside - Ty Martinsen, Tredyn Prososki, Trey Carraher
St. Edward - Keenan Rasumussen, Jonah Micek
Chambers/Wheeler Central - Carter Croxen, Zane Patrick, Ross Gribble
HONORABLE MENTION, VOLLEYBALL
Stuart - Rachel Kaup
O'Neill - Payton Birkel
Clearwater-Orchard - Kylie Thiele, Kinzly Macke
Ewing - Miranda Summer, Bailey Schindler, Ashley Koenig, Jodi Fry
Elgin Public/Pope John - Baylee Wemhoff, Grace Henn, Paige Meis, Nicki Payne
Riverside - Morgan Haschke
Bloomfield - Leah Poppe, Brandi Guenther