LINCOLN — Norfolk Catholic made sure it included injured player Isaac Pfeifer in its activities while in Lincoln for the Class C-1 championship game.
“We saw him (Monday) night and had our team meetings with him,” said Riley Knake, a fellow senior who scored during the Knights' 24-13 win over Boone Central/Newman Grove for their third consecutive C-1 title.
“He's still part of our team. He's still our teammate,” Knake said. “All our guys got to hang out with him and he liked that a lot. He was upstairs here watching and I know he liked that.”
Pfeifer hurt his spine during the Knights' quarterfinal win over Fort Calhoun. After surgery in Omaha, he is working on regaining use of his lower body at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln.
Confidence on defense
Whenever the Omaha Gross defense needed to draw inspiration in its playoff run, it went back to the same well.
“It started against Crete when we stopped them at the 1-yard line. It's always motivated us,” said junior Anthony Vigneri, who is a starting linebacker. “We would tell each other, 'Go back to the Crete game,' because that's when we came together as a defense.”
Nebraska football fans watching the Class B final had to feel a bit nostalgic when they saw a three-play sequence on a second-quarter Norris drive.
The Titans, a power rushing team, handed off to senior fullback Nick Davis on back-to-back-to-back snaps, gaining 9, 16 and 5 yards.
Gross called a timeout after Davis' second carry to regroup its defense.
On the night, the 5-foot-11, 225-pound Davis carried seven times for 40 yards.
No easy road to finals
The list of teams that Norris and Gross each went through to reach the state final read like a who's who of Class B football.
Along the way, the Titans went on the road for a first-round win over perennial power McCook — a finalist in five of six seasons from 2002 to '07; made another trip for a semifinal win over 2008 and '09 champion Aurora; and beat always-tough Gretna.
Not to be outdone, Gross beat defending champion Elkhorn and 2009 runner-up Omaha Skutt.
While Norris made trips to Aurora and McCook during its run, Gross never left the Omaha area until Tuesday. The Cougars beat Plattsmouth and Elkhorn at home and went to Skutt for the quarterfinals.
The last time Gross truly hit the road was for a mid-September trip to Waverly in Week 5.
'Munchkins' grew up
David City Aquinas had a special senior class, coach Ron Mimick said, one that he's seen since they were in elementary school.
They got to the semifinals all four years, making it all the way to state titles the past two. Only twice in their 26-game winning streak did they go to overtime.
“We fell behind three straight games in the playoffs and came back three straight games,” Mimick said. “They really have matured a lot from when they were little bitty munchkins and my wife had them in music class in grade school. This was a group that was very focused.”
>> Aquinas ran its final offensive play with just nine players on the field.
>> Warm weather helped attendance, especially for the Gross-Norris game. The crowd of 6,539 was nearly three times the size last year's cold night.