PONCA -- Norfolk Catholic’s sophomore quarterback Carter Janssen had a hand in five of the Knights’ six touchdowns Friday night.
Those touchdowns--which included two scoring passes to Brennen Kelley in the first half and another in the third quarter to Mason Timmerman, as well as a pair of quarterback keeps--propelled Norfolk Catholic to its fourth consecutive win, a 38-0 victory over Ponca.
“Carter is a talented kid, and I think he’s improving all the time with the more reps he gets, the more defenses he sees,” Knights coach Jeff Bellar said. “We’re still a little late on some timing throws, but I like what he does. He’s getting better all the time.”
The only issue Norfolk Catholic experienced against the Indians was not converting point-after-touchdown tries. The Knights missed three of five kicks and saw a run attempt come up short as well, an issue Bellar said needs to be cleaned up.
“We need to clean up our kicking game; we’ve been sharper in that. I think Max Hammond is a very good kicker. He’s only a freshman, but I don’t think it’s all on him,” Bellar said. “I think our timing was a little off, I don’t know if we blocked everything as well as we need to, so we’ve got some work to do in that aspect.”
The Knights scored three times in the first period, putting points on the scoreboard less than three minutes into the game when Janssen found Kelley with a 22-yard touchdown pass, then adding two rushing touchdowns--the first a 33-yard quarterback draw up the middle by Janssen, followed by an 82-yard scamper by junior running back Karter Kerkman.
Hammond tacked on the PAT kick after Kerkman’s run to provide Norfolk Catholic with a 19-0 lead after one quarter.
Janssen added a 25-yard run on a quarterback sweep and, after regaining possession on Mason Timmerman’s interception, connected with Kelley on an out-and-up route with eight seconds remaining in the half to put the Knights up 32-0.
To open the second half, Janssen ended the last possession for the Norfolk Catholic starters with a 23-yard scoring pass to Timmerman that also established the game’s 38-0 final score.
“We thought they would run a 4-3 defensive alignment all night, and we told our team we thought we could counter them with our run game,” Bellar said. “That play seemed to be pretty good for us, and at times they would jump into a man coverage look and didn’t have any help over the top, so we were able to get behind them with a couple of throws.”
“We like Carter running; he’s deceptively faster than people think,” he said. “He’s probably one of the faster guys on our team, so when we get him into an alley he can put his foot down and go.”
The Knights’ running game--which finished the game with 264 yards on 21 attempts--got a boost from junior running back Kerkman, who contributed 156 yards on a dozen carries--including the 88-yard touchdown run.
“Early in the year we played Karter at wingback, but we had an injury occur, so we moved him to I-back and he’s gone over a hundred yards (rushing) in every game we’ve had,” Bellar said. “He really gives us a guy that can run hard and get it going for us. I’ve been really happy with him.”
According to Bellar, Norfolk Catholic’s rushing attack is powered by a young, but experienced offensive line.
“I think our offensive line continues to improve,” Bellar said. “We thought coming into this year that would be a strength of ours; two of those guys started as freshmen and are sophomores now, and another started as a sophomore, so we’re getting a little older. We’re still kind of young, but as they develop I think that could be a good unit for us.”
Janssen completed 8 of 9 passes, with no interceptions, and totaled 164 yards. Kelley accounted for 96 of those on four catches while Kanyon Talton accumulated 39 yards on two receptions and Timmerman 30 on his two chances.
“Their corners were playing really tight, so we were able to take advantage of the deep routes especially,” Janssen said. “Our receivers just made really good catches, and our line did a really good job blocking, so with good pass protection I had plenty of time to throw it.”
“Our run game has been pretty good all season; our line has been blocking really well,” he said. “So when defenses play for our run game, we’ve been able to throw passes over the top.”
Janssen said his success as a young player comes from “really good coaching and great teammates,” and specifically mentioned Timmerman--who has also played quarterback for the Knights--as a “mentor” who has helped him know what to do and provided encouragement.
“I think those two guys work very well together, and Mason can go in and play quarterback for us if we need him to,” Bellar said. “That’s a good combination.”
Norfolk Catholic, which improves to 4-1 on the season will play at Wayne next Friday, while Ponca, which slips to 2-3, will also go on the road to play BRLD.
Norfolk Catholic (4-1) 19 13 6 0 -- 38
Ponca (2-3) 0 0 0 0 -- 0
NC: Brennen Kelley 22 pass from Carter Janssen (kick failed), 9:20.
NC: Janssen 33 run (run failed), 2:22.
NC: Karter Kerkman 88 run (Max Hammond kick), :20.
NC: Janssen 25 run (Hammond kick), 9:23.
NC: Kelley 24 pass from Janssen (kick failed), :08.
NC: Mason Timmerman 23 pass from Janssen (kick failed), 5:21.