NORFOLK, Neb. — The rivalry between Norfolk Catholic and Battle Creek dates to the 1980s, but with considerable district ramifications in Class C-2, the only contest that mattered to these squads was played Friday night.
The game, a 21-7 victory by the second-ranked Knights, required a win in the turnover battle and some solid goal-line defense to overcome an outstanding defensive effort by the Braves (4-3).
“We knew this would be a good team. I told our kids all week this would be a 48-minute game,” Norfolk Catholic coach Jeff Bellar said.
Battle Creek allowed the Knights (6-1) 26 first-half rushing yards, and a total of 64 yards on the ground in the game — limiting Dylan Kautz to 54 yards on 23 carries and Evan Smith to 10 yards on nine tries.
“We knew that Dylan is one of their main guys, and the Smith kid. We just did a good job — I can’t say enough good things about the defensive plan our coaching staff put together,” Battle Creek coach Andrew Carlson said. “It was a great game plan, and our kids went out and executed it. Our kids really played hard tonight; we did the things we needed to to win. We just couldn’t get those points when we needed them.”
A Battle Creek fumble late in the first quarter, recovered by Wyatt Smydra on the Battle Creek 21-yard line, set up the first of three touchdown passes by Norfolk Catholic sophomore Cayden Cunningham — and the first of two scoring receptions by Ryan Vetter, who took this one into the end zone on third-and-goal from the 5 for a 7-0 lead.
The Braves’ defense prevented further damage after another Battle Creek fumble at its own 41 when defensive standout Dylan Mettler intercepted Norfolk Catholic’s Nate Brungardt, the first throw in Mettler’s return to action from an opening-game injury.
In all, Battle Creek lost two fumbles and an interception, and all were costly. But the Battle Creek offense still had chances.
Three times Battle Creek moved the ball inside the Norfolk Catholic 10-yard line and the Braves came up empty on each occasion — the first when defensive ends Joe Teten and Ethan Piper hurried quarterback Ty Heimes into an incompletion on fourth-and-goal from the 8; the second time when Teten first batted, then intercepted a Heimes screen pass on fourth-and-goal from the 7 and returned it 36 yards up the sideline ; and the third time, Battle Creek turned the ball over on downs at the Norfolk Catholic 7.
Following Battle Creek’s third empty trip in the red zone, the Knights added a 69-yard touchdown pass from Cunningham to Jack Marsden with just over eight minutes left to play to increase their lead to 21-0.
Cunningham wasn’t asked to throw often, but he completed 5-of-8 passes for 113 yards.
Battle Creek (4-3)...................0 0 0 7— 7
At Norfolk Catholic (6-1)..........7 0 7 7—21
NC: Ryan Vetter 5 pass from Cayden Cunningham (Riley Carlson kick), 1:43
NC: Vetter 10 pass from Cunningham (Carlson kick), 7:29
NC: Jack Marsden 69 pass from Cunningham (Carlson kick), 8:28
BC: Reece Bode 19 run (Mason Mink kick), 5:57