The Norfolk Catholic Knights forced a turnover on downs, then scored on their first play of overtime to knock off the Class C No. 2 Oakland-Craig Knights 20-14 on Friday at Norfolk Memorial Field.
The orange and black opened up the period with a two-yard run by Tavis Uhling. However, a jet sweep by Carter Bousquet was sniffed out by Mason Timmerman for a three-yard loss. After a timeout, Grady Gatewood's pass to Carson Thomsen fell incomplete on their next play.
On fourth and goal from the 11-yard line, Gatewood found Uhling headed straight to the end zone on a deep route out of the backfield. However, his throw was deflected by Mason Weidner, allowing Norfolk Catholic to take over.
It was on the next play that Karter Kerkman took it into the end zone for his third touchdown of the day.
“We’ve been running that play all week in practice thinking it’s going to be a good play against them and that’s all it was,” Kerkman said about the game-winning play. “Great blocks and a great team effort all night.”
The junior led the Knights on the ground with 23 carries for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
Norfolk Catholic made it inside the 10 on its second possession, but the Oakland-Craig defense tightened up and forced a fourth and goal at the one. It was there that Kerkman punched it in for his first score of the night.
Oakland-Craig took its next drive to Norfolk Catholic’s 20, but a holding penalty and a sack by Nolan Fennessey pushed them back 16 yards.
A play after Tavis Uhling’s eight-yard run, Gatewood dropped back to pass and was forced to his left. He then threw the ball to the end zone where he found Connor Guill waiting with the catch. Gatewood then found Thomsen for a two-point conversion and the orange and black took an 8-7 lead.
Gatewood would complete his day completing four of his 10 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. He also had 16 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Two possessions later, Norfolk Catholic had it third and one at Oakland-Craig’s 46. Kerkman took the handoff and appeared to have the first down, but the ball was sent flying into the air and — after what seemed like infinite ricochets — was recovered by the orange and black, who took their lead into halftime.
Both teams kept each other at bay in the third quarter, but Norfolk Catholic’s first drive of the fourth quarter saw it with fourth and inches at the Oakland-Craig 21 with 9 minutes, 41 seconds left. Kerkman kept the drive going with a five-yard run. Three plays later, he ran it in from four yards out to give the Knights the lead again.
Gatewood wasted little time on his next drive. After an incompletion, he found Guill up the middle for a 31-yard gain. He would carry the ball on each of Oakland-Craig’s next four plays, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
Jeremiah Druckenmiller lined up for the ensuing PAT, his first of the game. His kick had enough height to make it through, but it was just a little too far right and it hit the right goalpost.
It’s an issue that came back to bite coach Joe Anderson’s squad. Oakland-Craig had missed three of the eight PAT kicks it tried going into the contest.
“It hasn’t been a strength of ours this year,” he said. “We had a chance to win in overtime and we didn’t get it done.”
Norfolk Catholic had a chance to take the lead on its next drive, but was stalled at the Oakland-Craig 29. Max Hammond’s field goal to take the lead didn’t have enough on it, allowing the orange and black to take over.
Gatewood got it started with an 11-yard run, but Norfolk Catholic kept Oakland-Craig from getting another first down. The red and white would take over at its own 35, but wasn’t able to score before regulation came to a close.
It was less than a month ago that Norfolk Catholic lost its season opener 39-17 against Boone Central. Since then, the Knights have rattled off three straight wins, including one against Ord, the defending champions in Class C2, last week.
“We knew that they haven’t had a close football game all year. We’ve been in a dog fight about every week out,” Bellar said. “I don’t know if that was an advantage or not, but we were both very even and it bounced our way in the end.”
As for Oakland-Craig coach Joe Anderson, he believes the game made his team better and wants to see them use this as a springboard to improve.
“We don’t lose any of our goals in September,” he said. “It’s what we do between now and the end of the season. Do we hang our heads or do we go back to work and get a lot better? I know our kids will respond the right way.”
Norfolk Catholic returns to action on Friday, Sept. 24, when it travels to face Ponca at 7 p.m. Oakland-Craig will hit the road to face David City Aquinas on Thursday, Sept., 24 at 7 p.m.
Oakland-Craig 0 8 0 6 0 — 14
Norfolk Catholic 7 0 0 7 6 — 20
NC: Karter Kerkman 1 run (Max Hammond kick) 0:22.
OC: Connor Guill 28 pass from Grady Gatewood. (Carson Thomsen pass from Gatewood) 4:39.
NC: Kerkman 4 run (Hammond kick) 8:36.
OC: Gatewood 1 run (PAT failed).
NC: Kerkman 10 run.