Norfolk Catholic runs through Boone Central to state title
LINCOLN — In its farewell to Class C-1, Norfolk Catholic put on a dominant performance in the state championship game.
The top-ranked Knights kept a Boone Central/Newman Grove offense averaging 38 points per game off the scoreboard in a 35-0 victory Tuesday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
“It just didn’t go our way today,” BC/NG head coach Mark Hudson said. “We couldn’t get anything going. (They deserve) a ton of credit.”
Norfolk Catholic (13-0), which went wire to wire as the Lincoln Journal Star’s top-ranked team in Class C-1, forced five turnovers and held sixth-seeded BC/NG (10-3) to 193 total yards.
The teams combined to fumble 11 times, but only the Cardinals gave them away. BC/NG lost four of its six while Norfolk Catholic recovered all five of its fumbles.
The Knights needed only 256 yards of offense to rack up their points.
With a 25 to 30 mph north wind blowing across the Huskers’ home field, Norfolk Catholic was content to play field position. The team’s longest touchdown drive covered just 50 yards.
Things started to snowball against the Cardinals early. After Norfolk Catholic had a bad snap on the first play from scrimmage, BC/NG quickly forced a three-and-out, but muffed the ensuing punt and the Knights pounced on the ball.
Following a scoreless first quarter, Norfolk Catholic got its offense going, aided by a couple of key penalties against the Cardinals.
Evan Smith returned an interception into BC/NG territory. After a 15-yard facemask penalty, Nathan Brungardt found Jack Marsden wide open in the end zone for a 22-yard score to make it 7-0 with nine minutes remaining in the second quarter.
With time winding down in the first half, the Knights ran a reverse on a punt return with Dylan Kautz handing off to Smith, who returned the punt 28 yards inside the BC/NG 30-yard line.
The Cardinals’ defense held strong and forced a field-goal attempt, but a roughing the kicker penalty gave Norfolk Catholic a fresh set of downs and the Knights capitalized with a touchdown to go up 14-0 with just over a minute left in the first half.
“It’s a really fine line in the state championship,” Hudson said.
BC/NG finally found some running room in the final minute, pushing the ball across midfield before Dylan Gentrup’s final pass of the half landed just out of Will Frey’s reach in the end zone.
The Knights put the game out of reach early in the second half.
After a three-and-out from BC/NG to start the third quarter, Kautz, who ran for 193 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries, raced 50 yards to extend Norfolk Catholic’s lead to 21-0.
“He was really good,” Hudson said of the Norfolk Catholic running back. “You can’t give him a crease. Our defense had been on the field a long time and played really, really well. You just can’t have one mistake.”
Kautz scored his final touchdown of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter and Smith added a score later in the quarter.
Gentrup, who accounted for more than 420 total yards in a 48-35 loss to the Knights on Sept. 15, was held to 114 yards on 20 carries and just 4 of 18 passing for 39 yards.
But that doesn’t diminish the season the Telegram Super Senior had, according to Hudson.
“He’s a phenomenal quarterback,” the BC/NG coach said.
Hudson added that the entire team was a special group, winning eight straight games after a 2-2 start to make it to Memorial Stadium.
“You had to sell them on believing,” Hudson said. “And they did.”
The group of 12 seniors were freshmen the last time the Cardinals played for a state title, and Hudson knew they had what it would take to make it back.
“Their determination and dedication is top notch,” he said. “They’re a really talented bunch, but what makes them special is their cohesiveness. They really enjoyed playing together.”