Norfolk Catholic hadn’t scored a rushing touchdown this season.
The Knights did so Friday night — with three of them — and added two more through the air, along with a defensive touchdown on a fumble return. Those six scores added up to a 42-0 win over Stanton on Friday night at Veterans Memorial Field as the Knights improved to 2-6 on the year.
“Not scoring a rushing touchdown hasn’t happened before,” Norfolk Catholic coach Jeff Bellar said. “That’s just kind of the tale of what we went through this year. We just weren’t consistent enough in running the football and then played some awfully good defenses and weren’t able to generate enough offense.”
The Knights, whose previous opponents include four ranked teams that boasted a combined 37-12 record entering Friday, established plenty of offense against Stanton (2-6).
“That’s the story of our season. We had to play really good people and weren’t able to beat any of them, although there were a couple of those games that were close and we had chances in,” Bellar said. “That’s just kind of the mark of our season. A couple wins early in the year, and you get more confidence, but we didn’t have that.”
Junior running back Jackson Clausen scored twice: from 2 yards to help Norfolk Catholic finish a 10-play, 62-yard scoring drive on its opening possession; and again, on a 60-yard scamper in the third quarter, to accumulate 105 yards on eight carries. Senior linebacker and fullback Wyatt Smydra added a 1-yard touchdown run.
In the air, quarterback Cayden Cunningham connected with Alex Lammers for a 12-yard score in the first half. He totaled 93 passing yards while completing eight of 11 throws before giving way to freshman Mason Timmerman, who found classmate Karter Kerkman on a 54-yard catch-and-run late in the fourth quarter to finish off the 42-0 win.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs’ opening drive — which began with 10 consecutive running plays and four first downs, including one on quarterback Parker Krusemark’s 6-yard scramble on fourth down — was stymied by a holding penalty, a broken play and a turnover. The forced fumble by Norfolk Catholic defensive end Max Wattier, which Cameron Bettenhausen grabbed at the Stanton 36 and returned for a touchdown, provided the Knights with a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
“We talked about that, just creating some excitement plays, trying to get something going,” Bellar said. “I think we played better as the game went on.”
Stanton’s only possession of the second quarter again showed promise as the Mustangs marched from their own 24 to the Norfolk Catholic 20, but an incomplete pass on fourth-and-3 with 12 seconds remaining in the half ended the threat.
Stanton, which moved the ball well on the ground at times, totaled 143 rushing yards — 97 of those coming from Gage Tighe’s 21 carries — but the Mustangs did not attempt a pass in the second half, although Krusemark completed 3 of 4 first-half attempts for 24 yards. Stanton did not cross midfield in the final two quarters.
“We rotated bodies on defense and sent in bigger guys to put a little more mass against what was mainly a dive play that Stanton was getting 3, 4 or 5 yards with,” Bellar said. “We’re not real big in physical stature, so sometimes we get moved around by people even though our guys play good technique and try to fight through it.”
The early lead gave the Knights a little breathing room.
“But Stanton’s offense isn’t built for coming from behind, so when we got a lead, I thought we could maintain it,” he said. “We also had some guys break some plays tonight that we just haven’t had a lot of during the year.
“Jackson had a nice long run, and we had a couple of throw-and-catches. We were able to pick on some mismatches that we could attack.”
Norfolk Catholic, now 2-6, will host winless Ponca on Friday night to conclude its season.
“I told the players after the game that I thought all week long they practiced well,” Bellar said. “We aren’t going to the playoffs, but you’re good football players, and you want to finish this thing feeling good about yourself. They did that tonight, and hopefully we can have one more good week and see what we can do next Friday.”
Stanton (2-6) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Norfolk Catholic (2-6) 14 7 14 7 — 42
NC: Jackson Clausen 2 run (Riley Carlson kick), 7:57.
NC: Cameron Bettenhausen 36 fumble return (Carlson kick), 1:59.
NC: Alex Lammers 12 pass from Cayden Cunningham (Carlson kick), 6:11.
NC: Clausen 60 run (Carlson kick), 7:18.
NC: Wyatt Smydra 1 run (Carlson kick), 3:03.
NC: Karter Kerkman 54 pass from Mason Timmerman (Carlson kick), 2:56.