Thunderbirds too much for Norfolk High
It’s not often that a coach feels good about a 35-point loss.
But, considering the opponent was 6-0 Bellevue West--the No. 2-ranked team in Class A, Norfolk coach Tom Olson found a positive in his team’s 62-27 loss to the Thunderbirds.
“That’s the best we’ve played this year; we got beat by 35 points, but our effort was the best it’s been,” Olson said. “All the things that we worked on, that we asked them to do, they did.”
Bellevue West’s speed advantage and ‘big play’ ability was evident, but the Panthers contributed plenty of opportunities with five turnovers--including three lost fumbles, an interception, and an errant snap.
“If you take out all five of those turnovers--there’s 35 points,” Olson said.
As a matter of fact, a low, bouncing snap to Norfolk’s punter Jaydon Green resulted in a recovery by Bellevue West on the Norfolk 13, and one play later junior running back Jay Ducker was in the end zone. After a two-point conversion failed the Thunderbirds led 6-0.
The Panthers answered with a 12-play 75-yard scoring drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Jace Monday to Gage Dohren. Connor Clayton’s PAT kick gave the Panthers their first of two temporary leads in the game at 7-6.
The second Norfolk lead came in the form of a 16-play 93-yard march, a response to Bellevue West’s second touchdown--a six-yard Ducker run from a ‘wildcat’ formation, that was also followed by another failed two-point try by the Thunderbirds which had West ahead 12-7.
“I was impressed that they ran the ball really well; we haven’t given up a lot of rushing yards this year, so that was an eye-opener and has me a little bit concerned,” Huffman said. “Their quarterback was accurate and made some savy plays. Take away two of their blunders and that game is tight at halftime.”
Three 15-yard penalties by the Thunderbirds kept Norfolk’s lengthy drive moving, but the Panthers took their second lead of 13-12 on Clayton’s nine-yard reception on a fade route from Monday midway through the second period.
“The penalties are unfortunate; we have some games like that,” Bellevue West coach Mike Huffman said. “We try to clean them up, we have a couple good weeks, and then we’re back at it again. We have to do a better job with that.”
Unfortunately for Norfolk, Bellevue West scored four times to end the half--the first on another Ducker run of one yard, then added another score when defensive back John Goeschel pounced on a loose ball in the end zone after a snap sailed past Monday on the 19-yard line.
Trailing 27-13, the Panthers went 80 yards in just five plays--the last 50 on a pass from Monday to Dohren, but the Thunderbirds produced their last two touchdowns of the first half on a pass from Evan Kieser to Shane Dailey, Jr. and, after Josh Thompson recovered a Norfolk fumble with under 13 seconds left, Kieser scampered into the end zone on a scramble as time expired for a 41-20 Bellevue West lead.
Kieser, who began the year as a receiver and became the quarterback following an injury to the Thunderbirds’ starter, completed 10 of 18 passes for three touchdowns--all three to Dailey, Jr.--and ran for 37 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Ducker finished with 135 yards and two scores.
“We’re blessed with some really talented kids; Kieser, although he was a receiver, has played a lot of quarterback in the last couple years,” Huffman said. “Kids like Zavier Betts and Shane Dailey, Jr. are pretty tough to cover.”
Dailey scored twice in the third quarter on receptions of 32- and 1-yard from Kieser to help the Thunderbirds to a 55-20 advantage and running clock until Norfolk’s Tyler Wilson took a 40-yard pass into the end zone against Bellevue West’s back-ups with 11 seconds remaining in the period.
The teams exchanged interceptions in a fourth quarter that was scoreless until the Thunderbirds’ reserves concluded scoring in the 62-27 Bellevue West win as quarterback Evan Cleveland connected with Seth Gage from 13 yards out.
Norfolk’s offense featured Austin Bruzek’s 80 rushing yards on 18 carries and 222 passing yards on Monday’s 13-of-21 completions, with Dohren totaling 82 yards and two touchdowns among three receptions and Wilson adding 78 yards and a score on five catches.
Bellevue West (6-0) 12 29 14 7 -- 62
Norfolk (2-4) 7 13 7 0 -- 27
BW: Jay Ducker 13 run (run failed), 7:59.
NO: Gage Dohren 19 pass from Jace Monday (Connor Clayton kick), 3:55.
BW: Ducker 6 run (run failed), 2:08.
NO: Clayton 9 pass from Monday (kick failed), 6:54.
BW: Ducker 2 run (Nate Sullivan pass from Ducker), 3:35.
BW: John Goeschel fumble recovery end zone (Cruz Jurado kick), :322.
NO: Dohren 50 pass from Monday (Clayton kick), 2:18.
BW: Shane Dailey, Jr. 13 pass from Evan Kieser (Jurado kick), 1:02.
BW: Kieser 21 run (Jurado kick), :00.
BW: Dailey, Jr. 32 pass from Kieser (Jurado kick), 9:05.
BW: Dailey, Jr. 1 pass from Kieser (Jurado kick), 6:11.
NO: Tyler Wilson 40 pass from Monday (Clayton kick), :11.
BW: Seth Gage 13 pass from Evan Cleveland (Jurado kick), 1:42.