LINCOLN — A hot start on its first drive wasn't enough for Norfolk Catholic as it fell to the Fremont Archbishop Bergan Knights 49-20 on Monday in Memorial Stadium.
“I could tell you guys about 600 excuses. We got beat by a better team,” Norfolk Catholic coach Jeff Bellar said. “So we’ve got to man up like we told our kids all the time and pat them on the back and go to work and try to get better.”
Norfolk Catholic was forced to punt on the first drive of the game, but Gavin Logemann lost control of the return, allowing the red and white to recover.
Two plays later, Karter Kerkman stiff-armed a defender, evaded two more, walked a tightrope on the sideline and found the end zone.
Kerkman would lead the team with 22 carries for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
From that point on, Bergan reminded those in attendance why it had won 24 of its past 25 games.
Bergan started on its first offensive play. Koa McIntyre settled in and let loose a pass that landed in the hands of Lucas Pruss for a touchdown. Just like that, the game was tied.
Following a Norfolk Catholic three-and-out, the green and gold needed just seven plays in two minutes, 33 seconds to take the lead on a run by Jarett Boggs.
The ensuing kickoff was misread by the red and white, allowing Bergan to take over 10 yards from the goal line. McIntyre then found his brother Kade for his second touchdown of the day.
Following another Norfolk Catholic three-and-out, Koa found Kade on Bergan’s first play of the next drive. Just like that, it was a 28-7 ballgame after one quarter.
Cal Janke would add onto Bergan’s total in the second quarter, but, just before it ended, Brennen Kelley hauled in a pass from Carter Janssen to cut the deficit.
The title was Fremont Bergan’s first since 1979. That year, the Knights won as a member of Class C1. What coach Seth Mruz will remember most is how much fun his team made in what is usually a tough process.
“You play for 13 weeks and have been practicing for 15 to 16 weeks. Sometimes things get to be a grind, and it was never a grind for those kids,” he said. “They’re sitting there chanting during practices, getting each other hyped up. It’s insane the amount of energy and enthusiasm they have for each other and the game of football.”
Koa McIntyre — who will play college football at the University of Wyoming — completed nine of his 11 passes for 259 yards and five touchdowns. Although his numbers were impressive, he was quick to credit his teammates.“My brothers helped me,” he said. “It wasn’t just my performance. It was my linemen and my wide receivers making plays.”
Bellar knew it would take everything Norfolk Catholic had to compete in this game. In the end, he said there were too many mistakes made in the smallest aspects of the game.
“I don’t think we made enough technique-sound plays today to be close to this team, and we needed to do that, probably play a little above our heads,” he said. “I don’t think we did that today. I think we played a little under what we can.”
The red and white will bid farewell to 11 seniors, who, after starting the season 0-1, were able to lead their team on a great run.
“We opened with a loss to Boone where it looked like ‘Hey, maybe we’re not a very good football team,' " Bellar said. “Our guys regrouped, showed good leadership and were able to win 11 in a row.”
One of those seniors was tight end and linebacker Preston Bamsey. Exactly 30 years to the day, his father was on the Norfolk Catholic team that beat Battle Creek 28-6 to win a state title. It was Bellar’s first as head coach.
“It was always something I’ve dreamed about. My dad’s always telling me these stories,” Bamsey said. “I’ve always dreamed about coming here and doing the same thing he did.”
The past two seasons were tough ones by Norfolk Catholic’s standards; missing the playoffs in 2019 and dropping out in the first round in 2020.
Thanks to the 2021 team, the red and white are back to the level of play that they've become so well-known for over the past 30 years.
“It’s hard to be at that highest end all the time. It’s not easy when everyone’s shooting for you all the time,” Bellar said. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t win today, but overall I’m extremely proud of our kids.”
Norfolk Catholic ends its season 11-2. Fremont Bergan finishes a perfect 13-0.
Class C2 state title game
Archbishop Bergan 28 7 7 7 — 49
Norfolk Catholic 7 6 0 7 — 20
NC: Karter Kerkman 16 run (Max Hammond kick), 7:17.
BER: Lucas Pruss 80 pass from Koa McIntyre (Alex Langenfeld kick), 7:05.
BER: Jarett Boggs 5 run (Langfield kick), 2:10.
BER: Kade McIntyre 10 pass from Koa McIntyre (Langenfeld kick), 2:02.
BER: Kade McIntyre 42 pass from Koa McIntyre (Langenfeld kick), 0:04.
BER: Cal Janke 1 run (Langenfeld kick), 2:45.
NC: Brennen Kelley 21 pass from Carter Janssen (PAT failed), 0:10.
BER: Gavin Loggemann 8 pass from Koa McIntyre (Langenfeld kick), 1:03.
BER: Pruss 54 pass from Koa McIntyre (Langenfeld kick), 9:32.
NC: Kerkman 63 run (Hammond kick), 0:31.