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.
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
A: Miles Eggleston 33 run (Nolan Hartman kick), 9:41.
NC: Dylan Kautz 57 run (Riley Carlson kick), 9:18.
NC: Riley Carlson 34 field goal, 10:57.
NC: Kautz 38 run (Carlson kick), 2:06.
NC: Evan Smith 6 run (Carlson kick), 6:40.
NC: Kautz 35 run (Carlson kick), 9:33.
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Front row, from left: Sam Sims, Grand Island; Dietrick Stolz, Grand Island Central Catholic; James Burks, Omaha Burke; Dylan Sales, Omaha Burke; Shane Dailey, Bellevue West; Jarod Epperson, Omaha Skutt. Second row, from left: D.J. Gross, McCook; Garrett Snodgrass, York; Xavier Watts, Omaha Burke; Jevyon Ducker, Bellevue West; Kohl Herbolsheimer, Millard South; Alex Rodgers, Omaha Roncalli. Third row, from left: Joseph Krause, Seward; Ethan Piper, Norfolk Catholic; Nick Henrich, Omaha Burke; Garrett Nelson, Scottsbluff; Chris Hickman, Omaha Burke. Back row, from left: Zavier Betts, Bellevue West; Mehki Butler, Omaha North; Caden Johnson, Wahoo Neumann; Tyson Gordon, Omaha Skutt; Baylor Scheierman, Aurora; Noah Stafursky, York. Not pictured: Isaiah Alford, Lincoln High
Like the burr oaks at Mahoney State Park that were the backdrop for this photo, the 2017 All-Nebraska football team branched out with players from the Wyoming state line to the Missouri River.
The 2016 All-Nebraska football team "earned their wings" at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum.
Back row from left: York's Masry Mapieu, Bellevue West's Sylvo Johnson, Lincoln East's Chris Walker, Gretna's Patrick Arnold, Bellevue West's Tyler Ciurej, Omaha Burke's Cole Frahm, Wilber-Clatonia's Riley Homolka, Norfolk's Lane McCallum, Ashland-GW's Brett Kitrell, and Beatrice's Cam Jurgens.
Middle row from left: Kearney's Noah Urbanek, Bellevue West's Jaylin Bradley, Omaha North's Kendrick Parker, Omaha North's Milton Sargbah, Elkhorn South's Moses Bryant, Omaha Skutt's Christian Banker, and Creighton Prep's AJ Hubner.
Front row from left: Wahoo Neumann's Noah Vedral, Omaha North's Zion Williams, Bellevue West's Diego Galvan, McCook's Zach Schlager, Bellevue West's Kevin Ponec, Norris' Austin Schultz, and Millard North's Jack Begley.
The 2015 All-Nebraska football team gathered at Papillion-La Vista High School for the photo shoot.
The 2014 All-Nebraska football team posted on the steps of the Joslyn Art Museum. The cover read: "A Step Ahead: The 24 members of the All-Nebraska football team towered over foes."
Back rows, starting from left: Papillion-La Vista South’s Jeremy Kowalski, No. 75; Seward’s Adam Holtorf, No. 79; Papillion-La Vista South’s Ryan Earith; Kearney’s Brian Arp, No. 55; Elkhorn South’s Brett Stinson; Grand Island’s Kevin Cahoy, No. 12; Omaha Central’s Tre Sanders, No. 6; Omaha Central’s DaiShon Neal, No. 9; Grand Island’s Pierce Almond, No. 2; Blair’s Vance Janssen; Bellevue West’s CJ Johnson; Boone Central/Newman Grove’s Wyatt Mazour; Omaha Central’s Xavier Graham, No. 64; Creighton Prep’s Jeremiah Stovall; and Creighton Prep’s Jack McLeay, No. 54. Front rows, starting from left: Omaha North’s Cole Bixler, No. 34; Omaha North’s Michael Decker, No. 78; Omaha North’s Calvin Strong, No. 5; Omaha North’s Jason Martin; Grand Island Central Catholic’s Youhanna Ghaifan; Millard North’s Adrrell Taylor, No. 27; Omaha North’s Marquise Lewis, No. 1; McCook’s Bryce Lyons, No. 21; and Omaha North’s Markell Vaughn, No. 22.
In 2013, the All-Nebraska football and volleyball teams came together for a photo shoot, and the cover was designed to look like a Facebook page with the teams taking one big selfie.
The 2012 All-Nebraska football team made a splash in the shark tunnel of the Scott Aquarium at the Henry Doorly Zoo.
Standing, from left: Luke McNitt, Kearney; DJ Foster, Lincoln Southeast; Josh Banderas, Lincoln Southwest; Nick DeLuca, Millard North; Harrison Phillips, Millard West; Mike Milenkovich, Millard North; Bryce Sosnowski, Millard South; Nathan Bazata, Howells-Dodge; Casey Sayles, Omaha North.
Middle row: Christian LaCouture, Lincoln Southwest; Jordan Bellar, Norfolk Catholic; Clay Fisher Millard North; Isaac Aakre, Millard North; Matt Kraft, Millard South; Alec Ditoro, Papillion-La Vista; Jake Schlager, McCook; Lee Carhart, Creighton Prep; Freeman Coleman, Millard South.
Front row: Andy Bayne, Millard North; Trey Carr, Omaha Burke; Calvin Strong, Omaha North; Skyler Monaghan, Millard West; Devin Washington, Lincoln Southeast; RJ Urzendowski, Creighton Prep.
With the Omaha skyline in the background, the 2011 All-Nebraska football team was "Standing Tall" at Pioneer Courage Park not far from the Omaha World-Herald building.
Bottom Row (from left): Tay Bender, RB, Lincoln Southwest; Isaac Aakre, RB, Millard North; Landon Arnold, OL, Millard North; Andrew Coppa, DL, Omaha Burke; Trey Foster, DL, Lincoln Southeast; Bo Liekhus, DB, Bellevue West.
Middle Row (from left): Darian Barrientos-Jackson, DB, Omaha Central; James Anderson, OL, Omaha Burke; Andy Janovich, LB, Gretna; Drew Farlee, K, Norfolk Catholic; Mike Minter Jr., DB, Lincoln North Star; Sam Cotton, DL, Lincoln Southeast; Devin Washington, RB, Lincoln Southeast; Sam Foltz, DB, Grand Island; Jeremy Callahan, P, Lexington; Robbie Lafour, OL, Lincoln Southeast; Jake Schany, LB, Blair; Jordan Nelson, RB, Omaha Burke; Ryker Fyfe, QB, Grand Island.
Top Row (from left): Jordan Brichacek, OL, Howells; Zach Oliver, WR, Omaha Burke; Terry Grigsby, DB, Omaha North; Drew Ott, LB, Giltner; Mike Shoff, OL, Cambridge.
All-Nebraska football captains Jimmie Forsythe of Omaha Burke and Tyson Broekemeier of Aurora were the focus in 2010 during this shoot at Turner Park at Midtown Crossing.
The 2009 All-Nebraska football hopped aboard this old streetcar at the Durham Museum.
There was "nothing pedestrian" about the 2008 All-Nebraska football team, which posed in front of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
Back row, from left, Tyrone Sellers of McCook, Corey Serrano of North Platte, Nathan Zook of Grand Island, Eric Koehlmoos of Pierce, Tyler Daake of Norfolk Catholic, Tyler Niederklein of Millard West, Charles Viers of Millard West, Josh Kage of Papillion-LaóVista, Jake Herweyer of Millard West, Cole Pensick of Lincoln Northeast, Jordan Hale of Millard South, Andrew Rodriguez of Aurora, James Davis of Omaha North, Jon Lechner of Prep, Scott Criss of Omaha Creighton Prep and C.J. Zimmerer of Omaha Gross. Front row, Matt Berry of McCook, Braden Taylor of Grand Island, Vinny Molina of Kearney, Kohlman Adema-Schulte of Millard West, Bryant Giles of Omaha North, Michael Burrus of Papillion-LaóVista South, Ronald Coleman of North, Tyler Seals of Bellevue West and Greg Hardin of Bellevue West.
For the 2007 All-Nebraska football team, The World-Herald chose individual shots for the cover instead of the group photo, and the result was "Picture Perfect."
No challenge was too steep for the "Rock Solid" 2006 All-Nebraska football team, who posed in front of a climbing wall at Dick's Sporting Goods.
The 2005 All-Nebraska football team wore letterman jackets for the photo shoot instead of their jerseys.
Top, from left, Millard North's Corey Young, Lincoln Southwest's Ian Dike, Millard North's Adam Nelson, Bellevue West's Silas Fluellen, Omaha Central's D.J. Jones (back row), Millard North's Jeff Tarpinian, Kearney's Tony Green, Lincoln Southwest's Ben Martin, Bellevue West's Jeff Martin, Lincoln Southwest's Ollie Sloup, Papillion-LaVista's Kyle Dooley and McCook's Josh Cherry.
Bottom, from left, Omaha Benson's Anthony Williams, Kearney's Joey Rousseau, Lincoln Southwest's Andy Cotton, Omaha Burke's Ricky Henry, Omaha South's Philip Barrientos, Creighton Prep's Mark Waring, Omaha Burke's Alex Henery, Millard West's Brandon Pete, Omaha Burke's Travis Liechti, Millard North's Paul Homer, Omaha North's Aaron Terry and Millard West's Matt Leaders.
Nothing says football like rows of poinsettias. Those were the accents that went with this photo shoot for the 2004 All-Nebraska football team.