PIERCE, Neb. — Pierce ran over its rival like never before.
And it won’t have to do it again at playoff time.
Norfolk Catholic was no match Friday night as the Bluejays administered a 48-29 defeat to the preseason No. 1 team in Class C-2 and last year’s Class C-1 state champion.
The 48 points were the most Pierce ever scored on the Knights — two fewer than the total the Jays mustered in their losses to Norfolk Catholic the past four years.
The preseason Class C-1 No. 2 team, led by junior quarterback Dalton Freeman and a dominating, deep offensive line, racked up 433 yards rushing and 544 overall. Freeman had 166 yards rushing, Carson Oestreich 118 and Brett Tinker 117.
Three 100-yard rushers against Norfolk Catholic. Unheard of.
“Bottom line, if the offensive line doesn’t do its job it was going to be very difficult to do what we did tonight,” Pierce coach Mark Brahmer said.
Pierce rotated four players at tackle, four at guard and four at tight end on the 80-degree night.
“Sooner or later,” the coach said, “people will break and those 4-yarders will turn into 13s and then into 30s, hopefully, in the second half.”
Brahmer said he thought Pierce played Norfolk Catholic well last year, never punting in the 28-13 loss. While the loss dropped the Jays to 2-3, they went 5-2 after that in reaching the C-1 semifinals.
They then hit the weight room in the offseason with zeal and a purpose. Brahmer said many of the linemen beefed up from 170 pounds to the 190s.
“Especially with knowing Catholic was our opener, we pushed harder, tried to outwork last summer, knowing we came up short last season,” said Freeman, who threw twice to Oestreich for touchdowns while rushing for four scores. “We want to get that next step.”
Because Norfolk Catholic isn’t in C-1 this year, for the first time since the mid-1990s, the rivals can’t meet again until the 2019 opener in Norfolk.
“The nice thing about this victory is we don’t have to see them again in the playoffs, which we’ve been doing year in and year out,” Brahmer said. “I have a lot of respect for Jeff Bellar. He’s a good friend of mine, but he’s won a heckuva lot more in this rivalry than I have.
“This is the first time we don’t have to go, ‘OK, now when we see them in November, how are we going to beat them?’ So that’s a nice feeling as well.”
Bellar said Pierce outplayed the Knights at the point of attack.
“I thought we could stalemate them there,” he said. “We were able to do some things offensively, but always when we were quite a ways behind. We didn’t get enough stops. Defensively, we have to get better.”
Dylan Kautz led Norfolk Catholic with 173 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Starting quarterback Ryan Brungardt missed most of the final three quarters with a collarbone injury.
Norfolk Catholic (0-1)........6 2 14 7—29
At Pierce (1-0)..............14 14 6 14—42
P: Dalton Freeman 8 run (Devan Roth kick)
NC: Dylan Kautz 62 run (kick failed)
P: Carson Oestreich 31 pass from Freeman (Roth kick)
P: Brett Tinker 74 run (Roth kick)
P: Freeman 1 run (Roth kick)
NC: Safety, punter tackled in end zone by Chase Abler
NC: Ryan Vetter 33 run (Riley Carlson kick)
P: Oestreich 6 pass from Freeman (kick blocked)
NC: Kautz 8 run (Carlson kick)
P: Freeman 1 run (Tinker pass from Freeman)
NC: Evan Smith 54 pass from Cayden Cunningham (Carlson kick)
P: Freeman 22 run (kick failed)
A: 2,000 (est.)
Rushing: NC, Kautz 21-173, Smith 7-67, Cunningham 2-minus 1, Jackson Clausen 3-10, Vetter 2-41, Abler 1-8, Nate Brungardt 1-0. P, Freeman 16-166, Tinker 13-118, Oestreich 16-116, Dylan Delka 3-26, David Dale 1-1, Ryder Fuchs 1-6.
Passing: NC, Cunningham 4-8-1 83, Brungardt 1-5-0 12. P, Oestreich 1-1-0 63, Freeman 3-5-0 48.
Receiving: NC, Smith 3-90, Cameron Bettenhausen 1-8, Kautz 1-minus 3. P, Freeman 1-63, Oestreich 2-37, Gavin Larson 1-11.
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