Isaac Pfeiffer would be proud. In fact, he was proud, proud of his Norfolk Catholic teammates as they fought their way to a third straight Class C-1 state title Tuesday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Pfeiffer, a Norfolk Catholic senior, was paralyzed in an earlier playoff game but his spirit was a big part of his team's preparation and eventual execution in its 24-13 win over Boone Central. Norfolk Catholic (12-1) became the first C-1 team to win three consecutive state titles while Boone Central/Newman Grove finished the season 11-2, with both of those losses coming to the state champs.
With Pfeiffer's injury and on-going efforts toward recovery as part of the back strong, the Knights held on through a first half mostly dominated by Boone. The Cardinals gained almost 300 yards in the first half but had only a 3-3 tie to show for it.
After the defenses took center stage in the first half, the third quarter turned into an offensive showcase. Norfolk Catholic struck first, on a five-yard pass from Jordan Bellar to Riley Knake, before Boone scored twice, including a two-yard Tanner Mazour run and a 32-yard field goal by Fabian Hohnert, giving the Cardinals a 13-10 lead with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
Boone had the lead and the momentum. It lost both within a matter of a minute and 28 seconds; that's how long it took NC to drive 79 yards in four plays, the big one a 50-yard run by Jackson Love. Kyle Schaefer barreled into the end zone from five yards out to give the Knights a 17-13 lead it would never lose.
Our state has been blessed with some great football dynasties over the years - think '80s Prep, '90s Falls City Sacred Heart and Cambridge, Howells in the 2000s - but under the leadership of head coach Jeff Bellar and his staff, Norfolk Catholic has certainly earned a seat at the table reserved for all-time greats. This makes nine state titles for NC, the last three in a row, and a total of 14 state finals, all since 1983. Taking it one step further, Norfolk Catholic has won five state titles since 2004.
Bellar has become the most successful coach of his generation, winning 300 games to go with all those state titles, and he's still a young man. He will easily bury the all-time win record held by Prep's legendary Tom Jaworski (311), and you have to believe he's got a few more state titles up his sleeve.
As for Boone, it was a great year, a really great year, and talking with Cardinal fans after the game they appreciated the achievement of their team more than the disappointment of not finishing the job, which is commendable. And as I have said before, there is no more professional, upbeat sideline anywhere in Nebraska than the Boone sideline under head coach Arnie Johnson and is staff. You stay classy, Boone...
Another great game with a historic ending -no wonder Isaac Pfeiffer is proud...