2023 Week 5 (Nebraska)
So after being in Wyoming for nearly a week, it was time to leave. The only issue was where to see games that weekend. There were Friday games in Wyoming. But ony one full Thursday game. Far from Laramie. So, I looked next door to Nebraska to see what was available. And there were a lot.
For Thursday night, there were several options that interested me. Towns I’ve been to. Or teams I’ve heard of. And a few wildcards thrown in.
In Western Nebraska, one such game was Dundy County-Stratton in Benkelman, not far from St. Francis, Kansas. Where I’ve been to many times, and have seen a game a few years ago in 2020. Dundy County is located in the far southwestern corner of the state. Just west of Hitchcock County. They were hosting Medicine Valley in 8-man.
Further east, there was Sandhills Valley hosting St. Patrick’s from North Platte. Also in 8-man. Along I-80, there were two games. Brady hosting Wallace in 6-man, as well as South Platte hosting Creek Valley.
Brady had the most interesting stadium for a 6-man game on Thursday. But, being that far east, I didn’t want to spend my entire day traveling there. Especially with my planned Friday night matchup.
So, for the sake of brevity, I chose the closest option.
Big Springs, Nebraska is located right near the split between I-80 and I-76. I-80 followed, up to that point, the Lincoln Highway, aka US30. And continued west across southern Wyoming to Salt Lake City and eventually US30 would find its way to Portland, Oregon. While I-80 would be built to travel closest to US50 west across Nevada to San Francisco over Donner Pass.
At Big Springs, however, I-76 would continue southwest to Denver. Where would-be travelers would be lost into the mountains along I-70. For years, the ‘through route’ would direct you to I-76 west from here. Only a recent reconstruction had placed the through routes as I-80.
Though it’s a small town, it’s served as a major junction point. Leaving Laramie, I followed I-80 east through Sherman Pass to Cheyenne and into Nebraska near Pine Bluffs.
I stayed on I-80 while checking the weather reports to be shocked while stopping to get something to eat in Sidney that there was a Tornado Warning for Deuel County. Where both Creek Valley and South Platte were located.
I only stopped briefly, as I was much closer to kickoff than I thought. So, I headed north from Sidney to take US30 across to Big Springs. Along the way I’d pass through Chappell.
US30 mostly runs a few miles north of it’s more well-known cousin, I-80 along these parts. Which gives US30 a much simpler, less frenetic drive. Going through small outposts of Colton, Sunol, Lodgepole, and to Chappell.
Chappell isn’t that small of a town. Sure, it’s small. But it sits at the junction with US385 between the town and I-80. Also, where I-80 might be the closest. Especially for a while eastbound, as I-80 drops southward toward the I-76 interchange. While US30 takes a line due east straight across for a faster approach to Brule.
Traveling east, though, I didn’t see the weather. At least until I got halfway between Chappell and Big Springs. Then the skies started to look tenuous. The clouds were forming, but weren’t moving. Despite the storms moving east, the wind was coming from the east. The updraft was holding the storm in place. Just barely east of Big Springs.
I got into town and parked. And was on the visitor side of the field. I got my cameras ready, and headed over to the sideline which for the visitor side was quite far from the sideline.
It was a typically small 6-man field. Small home stand next to the stand alone pressbox. The visitor side was a moveable set of bleachers. The goal posts were simple metal pipes. While the scoreboard was noteworthy for being new, nice and featuring hundredths of a second for the timekeeping.
I walked around the field and got a roster. And while there, before the game started, the Parents Night festivities were underway. Until they were cut-short but large rain drops spurred by the weather reports and the game was suspended pending the weather.
The game was scheduled to start at 6pm. Instead, it kicked off at almost 8pm. The rain had cleared, but the storm system was still parked just east of town.
Finally, the game was ready to start. The played had taken the field again to warm up. And the skies themselves had cooled off. Going from 82F to 73F in a matter of minutes. And was a comfortable, though moisture dense, night.
#33 – South Platte v. Creek Valley
While trying to get the tweets out, this one tweet didn’t get through. Twitter was acting quite finnacky for the night. And this wasn’t the only issue.
I didn’t know too much about either squad going in. I knew by proximity that they were rivals. And both sides showed up to support their teams. Interesting that in most of Nebraska, it seems the schools are mostly just named after their towns or counties. However, right near each other, you had Creek Valley and South Platte. South Platte being the river that runs south of town, a fork of the much larger, very flat, very wide river that meanders through much of Nebraska.
With the six-man game, this was my first in Nebraska. I had seen 8-man in the state several times. And 11-man. A small tidbit is that Nebraska is actually the home of six-man football. The first ever six-man game was played September 26th, 1934. Eighty-Nine years ago today as I write this.
South Platte would open the scoring first, with a 2 yard run and a six-man specific two-point kick. With the difficulty increased to kick in a 4v6 blocking scheme, a PAT by kick is worth two, while a run or pass is worth only one.
AJ Estrada would nab a 45 yard TD run, to extend the lead, 14-0. Quinten Koenen would rumble in from 43 yards out to go up 20-0. And the last score of the quarter would be Joshua Estrada, with a punt return for six. Giving South Platte a comfortable 26-0 lead after ten minutes.
Early in the second quarter, Colton Babst would get another touchdown for the Blue Knights. A 22 yard TD catch as he waltzed into the endzone untouched. And Bryer Wilson would finish the first half scoring, 42-0 with a 16 yard TD run.
In the third quarter, Bryer Wilson would recover an offensive fumble, and run to the right side, for 63 yards, and a touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, and with time running steadily, Creek Valley finally cracked the goose egg, with a 15 yard TD run by Michael Prince-Dugan. Giving the visiting Storm a respectable, though lop-sided defeat to the host Blue Knights of South Platte.
I stayed the night in town. Just off the highway exit. And in the morning, drove back into town from the south for a few more photos.
And then took US138 southwest into Colorado. Had business to attend to. And then, started my drive east toward Nebraska, once again. Leaving US138, I followed dirt roads for a dozen or so miles.
I inadvertently tagged the photo as Nebraska. When it was, I believe, somewhere near the Nebraska-Colorado border north of Crook.
I followed some rough county roads south to US6, and followed that east back into Nebraska.
I had one game in mind. Last year, I lost out on a chance to see Hitchcock County play at home on a Thursday night. So, with them hosting a game on Friday, I knew I couldn’t pass it up.
US6 runs southeast toward McCook. And just west of the confluence of US6 and US34, is NE 25, which heads south to Trenton. Crossing just south of US34.
I stopped at the Dollar General for some Milo’s, and then across the street for some ice from the Sinclair. As well as some chicken bites. Since, I wasn’t sure what type of food the stadium would have and I was right there. I should’ve waited as the food smelled phenomenal at the game.
The field is located at the fairgrounds, southwest of town. It sits in a sprawling area on the western fringe of town. Along former US34. The town was bypassed long ago. But Route 25 still runs north/south through town. Connecting the town southward along a convoluted route around the Swanson Reservoir and associated Recreation Area to the city of Atwood, Kansas.
I was really regretting those chicken bites when I smelled the food cooking at concessions. The stadium itself feels subdued. Because of it’s situation behind a large earthen wall, it feels unassuming. The walkway behind the stands are at the top of the hill. With a lone concrete walkway passing down beside the concession stand. There was some light construction going on, so the photo of the entire complex didn’t look the greatest.
I went up top, got a photo of the banner displaying the 2022 championship feat, and then went to the right along the top, and down the rows of concrete ledges. There were no seats. No benches. Just concrete row after concrete row. There was steps under the roof between ‘sections’ so the steps down were managable. But, I wanted a photo of the venue.
At the bottom, there is no divider to the field. And as later in the pregame, would implore fans to stay off grass at the bottom of the bleachers. Where the cheerleaders were positioned. Being that the stadium is only on one side of the field, the visiting Bertrand fans were stationed at the west end of the field.
The stands wrap around at both ends, aiming the spectators toward the 50 yard line. The grass was tall for this game. Though trimmed for the yard markers. Which helped later in a few punts.
The visitor side had a long row of pipe-constructed fencing that separated the playing field from the practice field. Across the expanse to the other side of the practice field, was a fence with the HiTCHCOCK COUNTY FALCONS was written across a purple backdrop. And the flag was located at what would be the 50 yard line, though a good 50 yards or so off the visitor sideline.
#34 – Hitchcock County v. Bertrand
The game started with a bang. JC Kehr would return the opening kickoff 70-some yards for the TD. And just 12 seconds in, Hitchcock County was trailing, 6-0. Though the Falcons would setup two great feats of field position with a punt rolling to a stop just shy of the goal line. And another the punt bouncing out of bounds at the two. Setting the Vikings of Bertrand up for failure. Doing their best just to avoid a potential safety.
After the first period, Jaxon Unrein and company would get it going for the Falcons. First, Unrein would run it in from 3 yards out. Though the two-point play would keep it knotted at 6-6. But Unrein would not be stopped, and added a six-yard TD run to go up 14-6 after Shuler’s two point run.
But right before halftime, Thunder Nelson–one of the best player names of this season–would snag a 29-yard TD catch while Cooper Langford would get a 2-point run to tie it up at 14-14. Which would hold for the remainder of the first half.
in the third quarter, two things would happen. Cooper Langford would record a 1 yard TD run to give the winless visitors a slim 20-14 lead and the taste of a victory. And Jaxon Unrein would be injured. Taking a big hit on a play, he would get to his feet and leave the field under his own power, though assisted and slow. But later would leave the stadium for medical care.
Leaving backup Jack Baker behind center. The Falcons had a few decent drives.
As the game rolled on, the fog rolled in. At first providing a simple haze. Later, it became thick and started to obstruct the view if you weren’t on top of the action.
Despite the close game, as the Falcons struggled to move the ball consistently, the reality was setting in. Baker would lead the Falcons down the field late in the game. Setting up a 4th down pass play that would find the fingertips of the receiver. But as the pass deflected away, defenced by a Viking player breaking it up, the ball would fall harmlessly to the field. Giving Bertrand the ability to run out the clock.
It was a very fun game and the stadium to cross off my bucket list. I wish I could find a better name for it. But, in all my research, only once did the school refer to it by name as “HCHS Falcon Stadium”, so that’s the ‘official name’ that I used. It’s somewhat surprising just how many fields don’t seem to have an official name. Especially one that is not directly at the high school. Many times a team would simply say the game is ‘at the high school’. Which is somewhat correct. In those cases, I would just use the name of the town or school plus ‘Field’ after it to signify it’s that town’s or school’s field. But in the absense of no references to a name. One time, in all the articles I pulled up, did HCHS Falcon Stadium get mentioned.
After the game, there was a Parents Night feature again. As South Platte had done. Though, Hitchcock County did theirs as a postgame celebration.
I had considered, earlier, going up into the stands. But, by halftime I was being consumed by mosquitoes and didn’t feel like leaving the field. As I had already grown quite itchy from them. A student assistant from Bertrand offered me bug reppellant, which was nice.
An interesting note about this weekend was the scoreboards. South Platte’s was simple, but with hundredths of a second. While Hitchcock County still used the single light bulbs to signify which down and quarter, rather than the digital outline of an arabic numeral.
Because I was already in Wyoming, travel to and from the games was minimal. And other costs were already factored in. So, total football related costs were $69.40. Of which, $13.40 was gas. The rest was food. Nothing too spectacular. Fried Chicken once, the Milo’s tea and chicken bites. As well as two Mexican Sprites at the gas station near Crook, Colorado. They were a veritable bargain at $1.79 each. Most of the time imported soft drinks with real cane sugar are $2.49-$2.99 now.
PHOTOS OF THE WEEK
38 New Teams
12 New Stadiums
1,531 different teams
480 different stadiums
1,408 total games
Plans for next week are fluid. Though I have a rough idea what games I might attend.
For photos from this game, and others this weekend, click HERE.
For photos from previous weeks and seasons, visit http://www.flickr.com/sykotyk/sets/