Norfolk Catholic sophomore quarterback Nate Brungardt threw a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to help lift the top-ranked Knights to a 21-17 victory Friday over Aquinas in the Class C-1 quarterfinals.

No. 5 Aquinas took a 17-7 lead in the third quarter before Brungardt, who had completed just three passes for 24 yards up to that point, found Evan Smith for a 25-yard score to trim the lead to 17-14 with 9:45 left in the game.

Aquinas might have sealed the game when Matt Nadrchal raced 69 yards down the sideline to the Knight 4-yard line, but he was ruled out of bounds back at the Aquinas 38-yard line and the Monarchs had to punt.

Brungardt and the Knights' offense went to work. Norfolk Catholic marched 70 yards in 14 plays to go back on top on Brungardt's 10-yard pass to Chace Clausen.

"Nate threw a good ball and I went up and got it," said Clausen. "That's our fade route we're even working on in practice for a while. We haven't run it in a game until here."

Brungardt had to compose himself after Aquinas linebacker Daniel Reiter sacked him for a 2-yard loss on the play before the TD strike with 1:25 left in the game.

"We believed we could win. I trust Chace and I know if I throw it up there, he'll go and get it for me," said Brungardt. "We knew we could win it there.

"We knew it could have been the seniors' last drive of their career so we trusted the run because we know we have a good line."

The Norfolk Catholic defense gave up a pair of first downs before Dylan Kautz clinched the win with an interception.

"Norfolk Catholic played well. I think we made them reach a little deeper and they made us reach deeper," said Aquinas coach Ron Mimick. "Both teams played pretty darned well, pretty hard. It was a physical football game, going at it pretty good. We played about as good as we can play."

Aquinas got the first big defensive stand when the Monarchs kept Norfolk Catholic out of the end zone on three straight plays from inside the 5-yard line.

The Monarchs couldn't capitalize and Smith returned the ensuing punt 27 yards to the 25-yard line. Kautz, the Class C state sprint champion, ripped off a scoring run around the left end on the next play to give the Knights a 7-0 lead with 1 second left in the first quarter. Kautz finished with 155 yards on 27 carries.

Aquinas had an answer. The Monarch marched 75 yards on 16 plays, including a 26-yard pass on fourth down from Gavin Rech to Tyler Vavrina. That set up Kyle Petree's 4-yard blast over the left side to tie the game 7-7 with 4:50 left in the first half.

"With the Kautz kid and their line, they're just awfully tough to handle," said Mimick.

Clausen got his fifth interception of the season to give Norfolk Catholic one last chance before halftime, but the Aquinas defense stopped the Knights on downs and Monarchs ran out the clock.

Aquinas opened the second half with an efficient 80-yard drive in 10 plays, with Petree making it 14-7 on a 2-yard run. The Monarch defense got a three-and-out and the offense went back to work, driving 58 yards before settling for a 20-yard field goal by Trevor Siroky.

"We were very resilient," said Norfolk Catholic coach Jeff Bellar, whose team is 11-0 and will host Wahoo next Friday. "It wasn't easy. We were behind Wahoo 7-0, but that was early in the game. When we went down 17-7 here in the third quarter, I knew it would be tough because they are used to winning a lot, just like we are."

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