The 2022 prep football season in Nebraska came to an end on Tuesday as Memorial Stadium played host to the last three games of the season.
Hitchcock County, Clarkson/Leigh and Omaha Westside claimed state titles on Monday.
Tuesday featured the Class C2, C1 and B state championship games.
No. 3 Norfolk Catholic (13-0) 23, No. 12 Hartington Cedar Catholic (9-4) 0
The Cinderella run came to an end for the only double-digit seed to make it to Memorial Stadium as Norfolk Catholic, last year’s runner up, shut out Hartington Cedar Catholic to claim its 11th state title.
The game got off to a rough start as the Trojans fumbled the opening kickoff back to the Knights, giving Norfolk Catholic a short field to start the game.
The defense held the Knights to a field goal, but a short punt gave Norfolk Catholic the ball back near midfield and the Knights turned that possession into a touchdown. Norfolk Catholic scored on its next drive as well, and Cedar Catholic just never found a way to get going offensively.
The Norfolk Catholic defense held Cedar Catholic to 147 total yards. The Trojans went 2-for-10 on third down with two turnovers on downs, an interception, a fumble lost and four punts.
The Knights spread the ball around on offense with six different players logging carries led by Karter Kerkman (67 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries) and Kanyon Talton (67 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, 32 yards on two receptions). Iowa commit Kade Pieper led the defense with seven tackles including two sacks.
Jaelen Lammers led the Cedar Catholic defense with a game-high 19 tackles.
No 2 Pierce (13-0) 42, No. 1 Aurora (12-1) 14
Nebraska commit Benjamin Brahmer gave fans a preview of what the future at Memorial Stadium might look like with monster performance on Tuesday as Pierce completed a perfect season and captured its fifth state title.
Brahmer caught all 11 passes thrown his way for 249 yards and three touchdowns, and he caught one on defense as well for an interception to go with six tackles.
A first-half duel by the C1 powers turned into a one-sided affair in the second half as the Pierce defense took over and the Bluejays scored 28 unanswered to hand Aurora its first and only loss of the season.
Quarterback Abram Scholting finished 14-of-18 for 270 yards and three touchdowns with most of those throws going to Brahmer. Junior Keenan Valverde added 84 yards and two touchdowns on the ground as Pierce out-gained Aurora by more than 200 yards.
Senior Nik Harvey led the Pierce defense with 10 tackles (one for loss) and a quarterback hurry. The Bluejays had five tackles for loss, seven hurries, two interceptions, one pass break-up and one forced fumble as a unit.
Pierce held Aurora’s star running back, Carlos Collazo, under 100 yards, though he stilled finished with 94 (4.7 yards per carry) and a touchdown plus three catches for 21 yards and seven tackles (1.5 for loss). Quarterback Drew Knust ran for 48 yards and a touchdown, threw for 46 yards and led the defense with 13 tackles.
A bad snap on fourth down set the Huskies up with a short field, and after three runs and several broken tackles from Collazo, Knust scored from 2 yards out on a keeper for an early 6-0 lead (the extra point failed).
Pierce answered quickly as Schooling found Brahmer on third-and-long twice to move the chains then again for a 25-yard touchdown. The Huskies stopped the two-point try to keep the game tied at 6-6.
Aurora offered a methodical response, making its way down the field for a 10-play, 86-yard drive ending in a Collazo 4-yard touchdown. The talented back converted the two-point attempt as well.
Pierce had a shot to tie it up or take the lead, but a drive stalled out inside the 10 as a fourth-and-4 play came up 1 yard short. Scholting rolled out to his right, made his way back to the left, ran back towards the middle of the field and found an open receiver inside the 5, avoiding eight different sack attempts in the process. However, the receiver’s knee hit the turf a yard short of the line to gain, ending the play.
The defense forced a punt with just over a minute to go in the half, however, and Schooling orchestrated a seven-play, 57-yard that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run for Valverde, who then converted the two-point try to tie it up with 12 seconds remaining.
The Pierce defense dominated the second half as the Huskies had three drives end in a turnover on downs and two more end with interceptions. Aurora gained 110 yards on 32 plays in the second half.
Pierce took the lead with a 46-yard score by Brahmer on its first possession of the third quarter, then the Bluejays extended the lead on a trick play early in the fourth. Scholting pitched the ball back to receiver Colby Anderson who then threw it downfield to Addison Croghan who caught the ball despite a holding penalty for a 23-yard touchdown.
Brahmer picked off Knust on the first play of the ensuing drive, and Pierce later turned that into eight points the other way with another score and conversion from Valverde. The Bluejays put the final touches on the win with a 75-yard bomb to Brahmer up the right sideline with 95 seconds to play.
Aurora has now finished as the runner-up in three straight seasons after doing so in Class B each of the past two years before dropping down to C1 this year.
No. 1 Bennington (13-0) 38, No. 2 Omaha Gross (12-1) 7
Make it 26 in a row for the Badgers.
The top two teams in Class B traded scores in the first quarter, but Bennington showed it was a step above everyone else this season by dominating the last three quarters en route to its second straight state title and its 26th straight victory.
The senior trio of Trey Bird, Isaac Conner and Nick Colvert and a salty defense were too much for anyone in Class B to hang with all year long, and that proved to be the case again on Tuesday. They won every game by at least 14 points, and most of them by much more. Bennington outscored its opponents 524-113 this season.
Bird went 13-for-20 for 202 yards and two touchdowns and ran the ball eight times for 44 yards. Isaac Conner caught four passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Culvert ran the ball 31 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 26 yards.
The Bennington defense finished with eight tackles for loss including four sacks, four quarterback hurries, two interceptions and one pass break-up. Senior lineman Weston Heinemann lived in the backfield with 2.5 tackles for loss including a sack and two hurries. Cooper Mlnarik had a team-high nine tackles (1.5 for loss).
Gross’ star running back Jake Garcia ripped off a couple of nice runs late to finish with 91 yards on 19 carries and caught a 14-yard touchdown in the final minute, but he didn’t have much room to run all night long.
The Cougars had to punt on their opening drive and it took Bennington just three plays to strike with a 75-yard touchdown where Conner got behind the Cougar defense and out-ran everyone to the end zone.
Gross responded with an 11-play, 82-yard drive that featured two third-down conversions and a 41-yard touchdown catch-and-run on fourth-and-4 by Owen Brennan on a well-designed crossing play from Gross’ staff.
Bennington worked its way into the red zone on the following possession before the Gross defense held and forced a field goal attempt that missed wide right. However, the Cougars couldn’t take advantage of the lucky break and had to punt the ball right back. Bennington marched down the field in eight plays (six Colvert runs and two Conner catches) to take the lead and Gross didn’t score again until Garcia’s touchdown with 22 seconds left.
Bennington led 21-7 at halftime then held Gross to 29 total yards and zero points in the third quarter. The Badgers added a Colvert touchdown run in the third then a field goal and a touchdown run from Ben Parsons in the fourth.
Colvert finished the season with 1,751 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground plus 2- catches for 244 yards and five more scores.
For Gross, Garcia finished with 1,941 yards and 25 touchdowns rushing plus 13 receptions for 125 yards and three touchdowns.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.