NORFOLK — Two drives into the game, it looked like another instant classic between Norfolk Catholic and David City Aquinas was just getting started at Memorial Field.

But the Knights took care of business from there, giving coach Jeff Bellar his 350th career victory by scoring 31 unanswered points to blast the Monarchs 31-7 on Friday night.

It was easy to see the improvement.

Last season, the Knights needed an interception in the end zone to finish off a come-from-behind win at Aquinas in the Class C1 quarterfinals on its way to an undefeated season and a state championship. A week ago, Norfolk Catholic struggled defensively, surrendering 432 rushing yards in a 48-29 season-opening loss at Pierce.

On Friday night, the Knights' defense shined, allowing 195 yards on 51 carries, an average of 3.82 per try by the third-rated team in Class C2 according to the Omaha World-Herald. Norfolk Catholic – rated second in Class C in the area and second statewide in C2 – rushed 40 times for 393 yards on offense, good for 9.83 yards per attempt.

Dylan Kautz was a big reason for that. The senior speedster rushed 27 times for 273 yards – almost 100 more than Aquinas did as a team – and he scored three touchdowns, including a 57-yard carry on the Knights' first play from scrimmage.

It wasn't just Kautz.

With junior Nate Brungardt out for the foreseeable future with a broken collarbone, the Knights counted on sophomore Cayden Cunningham under center. But Norfolk Catholic also used a wildcat formation with senior running back Evan Smith taking snaps. Smith joined Kautz in clearing the century mark on the ground, finishing with 106 yards on 10 carries.

Kautz's opening sprint answered a six-play, 55-yard touchdown drive by the Monarchs to begin the game.

From there, Norfolk Catholic buckled down defensively. It allowed just 33 yards the rest of the first half, while Riley Carlson added a 34-yard field goal and Kautz took off for a 38-yard scoring sprint with 2:06 left in the first half for a 17-7 halftime lead.

Norfolk Catholic opened the second half in an opposite manner, though the final result was the same. Evan Smith capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive that drained 5:20 off the clock with a six-yard touchdown trot.

Aquinas appeared on the verge of answering when it marched 12 plays, but the drive stalled inside the Norfolk Catholic 20, and it ended on a missed field goal.

The Knights followed that up with the third-straight long drive to begin the second half, going 80 yards in 10 plays, with Kautz providing the exclamation point with a 35-yard touchdown run angling toward the far sideline.

A young Aquinas team was even more depleted. Miles Eggleston, who rushed three times on the opening drive, including a 33-yard touchdown, was injured and did not return.

Aquinas..........................7 0 0 0 – 7

Norfolk Catholic...........7 10 7 7 – 31

FIRST QUARTER

A: Miles Eggleston 33 run (Nolan Hartman kick), 9:41.

NC: Dylan Kautz 57 run (Riley Carlson kick), 9:18.

SECOND QUARTER

NC: Riley Carlson 34 field goal, 10:57.

NC: Kautz 38 run (Carlson kick), 2:06.

THIRD QUARTER

NC: Evan Smith 6 run (Carlson kick), 6:40.

FOURTH QUARTER

NC: Kautz 35 run (Carlson kick), 9:33.

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