It’s not as though Hartington Cedar Catholic’s running back Jacob Keiser changed into his uniform in a nearby phone booth.
But the senior, who wasn’t medically cleared to play in Friday night’s pivotal C2-3 district matchup with Norfolk Catholic until Thursday, certainly provided a ‘super’ spark for the Trojans during a 34-7 win over the Knights.
Keiser accumulated 237 yards — including four runs of more than 40 yards — and touchdowns scampers of 41, two, and six yards.
“He broke his foot in June during a football camp at the University of South Dakota, got cleared the week we played Aquinas and had six carries for 88 yards before he re-broke it,” Hartington Cedar Catholic coach Chad Cattau said. “A surgeon in Sioux Falls put a plate in it, then cleared him to play yesterday afternoon. So he hasn’t practiced, and probably has four total practices the entire season. He’s definitely our heart and soul on offense. Leading into the year, we were going to run through him, and finally we got that opportunity.”
And for Keiser, the night’s production along with his team’s victory were both special.
“I had a few carries for around 90 yards against Aquinas in the first quarter, but on a touchdown run I felt it pop again, so I knew it was broke,” Keiser said. “I sat out, got surgery on it, so now we’re good. It feels good helping the team win.”
“Everyone’s all hyped up right now. It had been a long time since we beat Norfolk Catholic — maybe 22 years,” he said. “We’ve got momentum now; our last three games we’ve been building as a team and getting better, and now we have momentum on our side. We’re just looking to keep on rolling.”
Keiser’s production certainly got the attention of Norfolk Catholic coach Jeff Bellar.
“We hadn’t expected him to play, but I don’t know that we would have repped any differently, and we’re happy the young man is playing and not injured,” Bellar said. “He’s a very good football player and made life very difficult for us tonight.”
Keiser took option pitches from sophomore quarterback Tate Thoene for 49, 43, and 63 yards, but after fullback Easton Becker — another sophomore — provided the Trojans with a 7-0 lead on a 15-yard sweep — Keiser scored his first touchdown on a 41-yard sweep of his own to put Hartington Cedar Catholic up 14-0 in the middle of the second period.
“This is the first year we’ve run option; we were always more of a straight power team in the past,” Cattau said. “We’ve been running some veer stuff all year, but Norfolk Catholic wouldn’t have seen him back there on film.”
“I thought our line played well on both sides of the ball. Offensively, I didn’t see a lot of plays where they were getting into our backfield, which tells me we were getting off the ball and our pad levels were low,” he said.
The Trojans established the final score of 34-7 with Charlie Schroeder’s 15-yard touchdown reception from Thoene with just under three minutes left in the game.
Meanwhile, Norfolk Catholic struggled to establish consistent offense, accumulating just 26 first-half rushing yards before finishing the game with 51 total. The Knights did manage 159 passing yards, with Cunningham completing 10 of 18 throws — four of those caught by sophomore Brennen Kelley for 92 total yards, including catches of 45 and 33 yards.
We put (Norfolk Catholic) in second- and third-and-long’s that helped us defensively,” Cattau said. “They throw the ball so well, that definitely worried me, but our defensive backs made plays when they needed to and our defensive line did a great job of creating pressure.”
Bellar was disappointed in the Trojans’ ability to control the line of scrimmage throughout the contest.
“I thought we would match up better up front; I’ll have to watch the film and see, because they had played some other teams we had played that we were very even with,” Bellar said. “But I think (Keiser) added a little spark to them; it’s fun to block for someone when you think he might break it at any time.”
The Knights were also often their own worst enemy with dropped passes and penalties hindering drives and scoring opportunities.
“I felt okay at halftime being down just 14-0, and I thought we should have had one when we put it in a guy’s hands and he drops it,” Bellar said. “Between that and offsides, some jumps, and just little things that we weren’t very clean on tonight. You’re not going to beat somebody that might have more talent than you; you’ve got to be better than that.”
Norfolk Catholic scored on a pass play from Cayden Cunningham to fullback Wyatt Smydra with 14 seconds remaining in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 21-7.
But on three other occasions the Knights faced fourth down situations inside the Hartington Cedar Catholic 35, and all three came up short--twice on incompletions and the third on a quarterback sack by Rex Becker.
“We just didn’t do enough things to be close enough to get a win,” Bellar said. “They outplayed us tonight. This was a big game for us, but next week is another big game again, Battle Creek is a very good football team, too, so that’ll be a challenge.”
Hartington Cedar Catholic (4-2) 7 7 7 13 — 34
Norfolk Catholic (1-5) 0 0 7 0 — 7
CC: Easton Becker 15 run (Ted Bengston kick), 1:54.
CC: Jacob Keiser 41 run (Bengston kick), 7:00.
CC: Keiser 2 run (Bengston kick), 2:56.
NC: Wyatt Smydra 18 pass from Cayden Cunningham (Riley Carlson kick), :14.
CC: Keiser 6 run (kick failed), 9:43.
CC: Charlie Schroeder 15 pass from Tate Thoene (Bengston kick), 2:47.