In his first season as head coach of the Schuyler Central High School Warriors football team, Jason Ankrah began preseason practices with an enthusiastic outlook for his 2019 squad. But a combination of injuries, a difficult schedule and players adapting and learning a new system led to an 0-9 final record.
After back-to-back years of salvaging a win in the final game of the season, Schuyler was held winless for the second time in four years following an 0-9 record in 2016.
“This season definitely didn’t go as we hoped for, but there was still success and progress with the team,” said Ankrah. “We went through a lot of injuries with our older and more experienced players. That forced younger players to step up and play. We have a long way to go to get where we want to be, but the young guys understood that and showed that they wanted to get better.”
In the six-team district in which the Warriors competed against, Omaha Roncalli, Bennington and Elkhorn Mount Michael all finished the regular season ranked in the top 10 of Class B and qualified for the playoffs. Roncalli is still alive with a semifinal matchup against Scottsbluff on Friday.
The season began at Nebraska City on Aug. 30 with SCHS losing the opener by a score of 35-12. The initial loss foreshadowed problems that haunted the Warriors all season: turnovers, penalties and missed tackles.
Schuyler’s home opener the following week ended with a 46-10 setback to Lexington. The following week the Warriors had their best chance of finding that first elusive victory of the season when they traveled to Valley to take on Douglas Country West. But again, SCHS couldn’t overcome its mistakes in a tight 28-15 defeat.
The next six weeks saw the Warriors offense fade drastically as they lost all six contests by a combined score of 320-13. The tailspin included losses to Omaha Gross Catholic 48-6, Elkhorn Mount Michael 50-0, Blair 62-0, Bennington 70-0, Omaha Roncalli 49-7 and South Sioux City 41-0 in the Homecoming battle.
As the Warriors begin looking forward to the 2020 season, they will have to do so without a good deal of their offensive and defensive firepower as several senior stars ended their SCHS careers.
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Graduating will be wide receivers Nolan Healy, Ruben Lickei, and Juan Gonzalez as well as running backs Elmer Salazar, Elder Romero, and Travis Marxsen. Also departing is quarterback Landon Reyes.
Still, Schuyler will have plenty to build with as the Warriors move forward. Freshman quarterback Dennis Martinez wowed the Schuyler crowd with his outstanding play late in the season and should lead an offense that could be much improved next season.
One of the unknowns facing the Warriors is who they will be playing next season. This was the second year of the two-year scheduling cycle. The NSAA will announce the district assignments and the new 2020 schedules shortly after the start of the new year.
“The big thing for these guys next year is the weight room and fundamental development," Ankrah said. "We have a young group of kids and the experience of playing in many varsity games this season was a benefit to them.
"We started well in a few games this year like D.C. West, Lexington, South Sioux City, and Nebraska City, but couldn’t play disciplined football for four quarters. We preach 'finish’ every day, and the more we work at it, I believe we will be where we want to soon enough.
“I look forward to next season and the offseason program. We will be better in 2020.”
Doug Phillips is a freelance writer for the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at SCHsports@lee.net.