The start of schools means the start of fall sports at high schools across the state, including Tekamah-Herman.
Tiger football fans get their first look at the 2019 squad during the team’s annual sports drink scrimmage. Kickoff at Tiger Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
Head coach Graig McElmuray said it his team can stay healthy, the season could be a lot of fun.
“With our schedule, wins are hard to come by. There’s a lot of good football in northeast Nebraska,” he said. “But we’re going to surprise some people.”
McElmuray said nearly every team on the Tigers’ nine game schedule has been in the playoffs over the last three years. Perennial powers Fremont Bergan and Oakland-Craig are the heavyweights in the District 3, but McElmuray thinks team speed will help his club compete for a playoff spot.
“Speed is our friend,” he said. “There aren’t many that will be faster than us as a group.”
Even the line is fast. Projected starters Dawson Schram and Wilson Anderson both ran then 100-meter dash in under 13 seconds during track season last spring. Senior Gabe Garcia and juniors Lucas Birdsong—the only returning starter up front—and Eli Lingle are expected to round out the interior line.
The skill positions is where the Tigers really burn. Quarterback Clay Beaumont is back under center after racking up a team-leading 1,230 yards of total offense last season.
His running mate in the backfield, classmate Luke Wakehouse posted a team-leading 522 rushing yards, boosted by a season high 174 yards on just 13 carries against Yutan.
Senior Chauncey Rogers, junior Cole Freidel and sophomores Cole Bottger and Dylan Chatt help round out the relay team.
After Friday’s scrimmage, the Tigers open the season on the road at Ponca Aug. 31 before hosting Stanton the next week. McElmuray said those two games last year were indicative of a mindset that he has seen start to change.
“Early last year, if something went bad early we couldn’t overcome it,” he said. “As the season went on, we started to show more fight and that’s starting to show up in a lot of places in school, not just football.”
He said students see the investments being made in them, citing the renovations at the Ford building as an example, and are working to make those investments pay off.
Although the football team hits the field with a lot of known quantities, volleyball fans can be forgiven if they have to look at their programs more than once.
Coach Becky Pennerfeldt has nine players in camp.
Marissa Burt is the only senior, She returns after stepping away from the volleyball court last year after playing her first two years of high school. Junior Reese Hansen is back for her third year but the bulk of the squad is comprised of five sophomores, four of whom—Brynn Schmidt, Aubrynn Sheets, Rylee Lawson and Elena Jetensky—saw considerable varsity experience last season. Projected as this year’s starting setter, Lawson split most improved player honors with classmate Kaitlyn Quick last season.
Rounding out the lineup are promising freshman Kennedy Pagels and classmate Ella Booth.
Although her team is dominated by underclassmen, Renerfeldt sees it as a terrific opportunity for her young players to grow together as a unit.
And it’s already started.
“They’re putting in great work in the gym,” Rennerfeldt said. “Our first day of practice was better than out first day last year.
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“It’s a great good and a lot of them played club volleyball in the offseason so they are coming back in the fall as better players that they were in the spring.”
She said the idea all year will be for that trend to continue. “We want to get a little better every day.”
Rennerfeldt acknowledged that getting better may not necessarily translate into wins, especially right away. The Tigers won only four matches last season despite a senior-dominated lineup.
“We only won four, but we were competitive in nearly every match we played,” she said. “We beat a ranked team in Howells-Dodge and played North Bend Central to five sets late in the year.
“The biggest thing for us will be building confidence. That can be the difference in close matches—just believing you can.”
The Tiger schedule had a soft opening Monday night with a jamboree matchup in the Tiger gym with Ashland-Greenwood. Jamborees are played across the state in several sports as a fundraiser for the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.
The season starts for real Aug. 29 when East Husker Conference rival BRLD visits the Tiger gym. Traditionally the last game of the season, the matchup was moved to the front of the line this year due to a scheduling change at the state level.
After the BRLD match, the Tigers next see action in the Northeast Nebraska Classic played in Wisner and Pender Sept. 5 and 7.
While the start of the season is a little farther off for the football and volleyball teams, it’s a little more immediate on the softball diamond.
Coach Abby Sheets has 17 players in camp, she expects as many as 15 could see considerable varsity action as she looks to replace at least five starters from last year’s 10-19 ball club. Perhaps the most notable newcomer is senior Anna Wakehouse. A softball player for Sheets in the summer, Wakehouse was a two-time all-East Husker Conference selection in volleyball and last year’s most valuable player. She’s decided to stick with softball for her senior year and will get to play with her little sister, Emma, who is a freshman.
“Anna is a great wrench to be thrown in,” Sheets said. “It gives us a lot of infielders, but it’s a good problem to have. It’s just a matter of finding places for people.”
The team’s top two pitchers from last year, Jadyn Fleischman and Greta Lindberg, both return as seniors. Classmate Kelsey Lewis can provide extra support in the circle.
Senior catcher Maggie Braniff, an all-state candidate and last year’s most valuable player and best offensive player, is expected to be ready to go this week after suffering a sprained thumb during a CCSC National Prospect Showcase camp held at the University of Maryland earlier this month. The 96 participants in the CCSC National event represented some of the best players across the country who attended a previous CCSC regional event this summer or received an invitation to the national camp.
Junior Maggie Sheets is expected to hold down third base
Senior Paige Lydick is expected to man one of the outfield positions but Sheets needs to solidify the rest of the outfield as well as the middle infield.
Working hard for one of those spots, Sheets said, are juniors LeAnn Hawkins and Halle Olsen, sophomore Jenna Voskamp, and freshmen Emma Wakehouse, Lacey Petersen and Ryan Braniff.
The Tigers had their public scrimmage last Saturday and were slated for a jamboree game at Fort Calhoun tonight (Tuesday) before opening the season at home Thursday night against Ashland-Greenwood.
Sheets said she plans to use Tuesday’s jamboree game as a glorified practice and, like the scrimmage, move a few people around to see what might be the best fit going forward.
“It’ll be a work in progress for awhile,” she said.