KEARNEY — The Kearney Catholic coaching staff faced a crossroad 20 minutes into their season.
Former tailback turned quarterback Thomas Connely fumbled and went three-and-out twice on the Stars’ first three series. The decision was whether or not to put Connely back at his natural spot of tailback and bring in John Masker to play quarterback.
The move, which they decided to make, paid off.
“We were thinking about (Connely) and if he’d be down if we moved him but it was a team decision. We felt that we had to put him back in the backfield,” said Kearney Catholic offensive coordinator Rashawn Harvey. “As soon as he got back there, it showed.”
Connely scampered for a TD on his first drive at running back while Masker tossed a pair of touchdown passes to lead Kearney Catholic to a 20-7 victory against Ord on Friday night at Miles Field.
Masker’s performance didn’t come without a few butterflies when his name was called.
“I’m going to be honest, I was nervous,” Masker said.
But Masker had the luxury of handing the ball to Connely four straight times before he threw a pass.
On the first play of the next series, Masker hit Blake Holtmeier in stride on a quick slant for a 48-yard gain.
“We don’t think anybody can cover him when we do that,” Harvey said of Holtmeier, who finished with 61 yards on three receptions.
Nobody could cover Holtmeier two plays later when the 6-3 wideout hauled in a perfectly thrown fade route by Masker to take a 13-7 lead. Masker’s confidence, he said, went through the roof.
“That first one really helped,” said Masker, who also connected with Bryce James for a 49-yard score. “After I threw that first one to (Holtmeier), I knew that I could do this. I can really lead this team.”
Masker didn’t have to worry about scoring every drive with the way the Stars’ defense stepped up.
Ord’s first series of the game was a 20-play, 84-yard drive that spanned 11 minutes and 25 seconds. Nick Valla punched in Ord’s only score of the day to cap the drive.
The Kearney Catholic defense only allowed 98 total yards the rest of the night.
“Our defense didn’t come to play until the middle of the second quarter,” said Kearney Catholic coach Dave Colling.
That second quarter saw Ord quarterback Trevor Fahrenholz throw his first of four interceptions on the night. Harrison Pearse’s interception jump started a Kearney Catholic defense that forced five turnovers.
Jack Graham, who had to sit a few plays early in the gamewith a head injury, picked off two Fahrenholz passes.
“He was huge,” Colling said of Graham. “That happened because he started dropping to where he was supposed to. We preach to them because sometimes they get caught up in the game and do their own thing.”
Once again, the Kearney Catholic coaching staff will face another decision moving forward. They can name Masker or Connely the starter and show confidence in their signal-caller. Or, as Harvey said, they can use the best of both of their abilities at quarterback.
“(Connely) will still get some reps at quarterback. There’s still some things we think he runs well and we want to do those things at quarterback,” Harvey said. “Just tonight, the way the game was going, we felt we needed to make a decision to spark our team a bit. It paid off to put him back there.”
Ord (0-1) ................. 0 7 0 0—7
KCHS (1-0) .............. 0 14 6 0—20
Ord — Nick Valla 2 run (Anthony Smith kick), 10:13. Kearney Catholic — Thomas Connely 2 run (kick failed), 2:29. Kearney Catholic — Holtmeier 11 pass from Masker (Pearse pass from Masker), 0:24.
Kearney Catholic — Bryce James 49 pass from Masker (kick failed), 5:52.
RUSHING — Ord, Nick Valla 15-54, Trevor Fahrenholz 15-27, Eli Hill 2-9, Kamron Dawe 2-3, Jesse Ritterbush 1-1. Kearney Catholic, Thomas Connely 15-106, Derek Jackson 6-17, Bryce James 1-(minus 3), John Masker 4-(minus 1), Nathan Howe 4-18, Blake Holtmeier 1-12, Garrett Dodlinger 2-(minus 7), Tyler Mestl 1-(minus 2).
PASSING — Ord, Trevor Fahrenholz 11-22-4-88. Kearney Catholic, John Masker 5-7-0-115, Thomas Connely 1-3-0-1.
RECEIVING — Ord, Eli Hill 4-20, Kamron Dawe 1-6, Nick Valla 2-12, Anthony Smith 2-33, Brady Wolf 2-17. Kearney Catholic, Blake Holtmeier 3-61, Harrison Pearse 1-6, Bryce James 2-49.