Kerkman breaks scoring record as Red rushes past White
By Nick Benes
Norfolk Daily News
In the 10-year history of the Northeast Nebraska All-Star Football Classic, 24 players had rushed for one touchdown. None had rushed for two or more.
Norfolk Catholic graduate Karter Kerkman and the Red team needed less than a half to take care of that anomaly.
Kerkman ran for three first-half touchdowns to set a new Northeast Nebraska All-Star Football Classic record, and the Red team rolled past the White squad 42-14 in the 10th annual exhibition played Saturday at Memorial Field in Norfolk.
“It feels pretty good,” Kerkman said of breaking the record. “But I can’t take all the credit there, because we had a great offensive line that was working hard all week to learn a new scheme, and they blocked it really well today, and we had other guys on the team who were making plays to get us close to the end zone. I was the one who got to get in.”
Kerkman was right. Nine different players on his team had at least one rushing attempt, and seven caught at least one pass. It added up to the Red team rolling up 447 yards of total offense — 227 rushing and 220 passing.
Pierce’s Abram Scholting completed 10 of 13 passes, with three of those going to Wayne’s Sedjro Agoumba for 98 yards.
“We really tried to shove about a month of football in the five days, and that’s not easy to do. … Our guys worked hard, they were attentive all week, and I’m really proud of their effort,” said Mark Brahmer of Pierce, the Red team head coach. “They’re a group that I’d love to keep for about two to three months. I think they could really become a good team. So, in five days, they did a tremendous job.”
One advantage for Brahmer and his team was that he got to coach four of his players — Scholting, along with linemen Schuyler Simpson, Carter Meier and Dawson Raabe. Those four played a big role in helping the team learn the offensive and defensive schemes.
“Those guys were really able to help teach through the week the other offensive linemen, and they were the example that I used when we were doing defensive drills, and the other guys caught on and really did a great job,” Brahmer said.
The White team still averaged almost 5 yards a carry with 184 rushing yards on 37 carries, and Aiden Kuester of Neligh-Oakdale went 16 of 29 passing for 147 yards and a score.
“We had a great week of practice, and it would have been nice to win, but the thing that makes you feel good is that the kids enjoyed the week,” said Greg Wemhoff of Elgin Public/Pope John, the White team head coach. “We would have liked to win the football game, but that team we’re playing, they had some kids who were great football players, and obviously coach Brahmer and his staff had them well-prepared.”
The dagger came with 20 seconds left in the first half, when Scholting hit Agoumba for a 46-yard strike and a 28-7 lead that it took into halftime.
It appeared that there might not have much of a chance to score one final time in the first half after a 57-yard punt by Will Hamer of Battle Creek pinned the Red team at its own 18 with 1:09 left and no timeouts. That punt was 1 yard away from the record 58-yard boot by Peyton Mathews of O’Neill just two years ago.
But Scholting and company went right to work. After two Kerkman runs netted 15 yards, Scholting heaved it up to Grant Arens of Hartington Cedar Catholic, who came back to the ball for an 11-yard catch. Scholting spiked it with 34 seconds left, found Carson Arens of Hartington Cedar Catholic for a 10-yard gain, and then hit the scoring play.
Scholting stepped back and waited for Agoumba, who made a leaping catch in front of a defender and scampered in for a touchdown to polish off the textbook two-minute drill.
“I told some of the guys on the sidelines that, if we got the ball back, we’re going to go score because we’ve got a lot of weapons,” Scholting said. “I live for those moments. I was pretty excited. I just enjoy being in those situations and make the best of it.”
Avery Overfelt of Homer added a touchdown run in the third quarter for a 35-7 lead, and Jaxson Bernecker of Hartington Cedar Catholic caught a 21-yard scoring pass from Scholting with 4:39 left to cap the game’s scoring. In between, Hamer caught a short touchdown pass from Kuester.
Kerkman appeared on pace to break the game’s rushing yardage record, too. He had 110 in the first half, but suffered a knee injury on his first carry of the second half and did not return. Kerkman was still selected as the Red team’s offensive MVP with 112 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries.
The Red team’s defensive MVP was Jay Steffen of Hartington Cedar Catholic, who sacked Kuester late in the first quarter to help force a turnover on downs.
“It was great,” Steffen said. “The experience was fun, being able to control and contain that great group of offensive players. That’s really special.”
THE GAME appeared on pace for a shootout for both teams early on.
The White team received, and Kuester connected on four-straight passes, including a 22-yard strike to Cale Kinney of Elgin Public/Pope John, and then Kuester took a quarterback draw 18 yards for a touchdown on third-and-8.
“I think that everyone was just pretty fired up,” Kuester said. “We all knew the other team had some studs on their team, so we were just having fun and letting it fly.”
The Red team roared back with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that included a 34-yard pass from Scholting to Grant Arens that put the Red team at the 19. Five plays later, Kerkman plunged in from the 2.
The White team came up empty the rest of the first half. It was held to just 38 yards in the entire second quarter, while the Red team scored three touchdowns.
The first turning point in favor of the Red team was an interception by Alex Phelps of Wayne. The Red team converted a third-and-inches, and on the next play, Scholting rolled right and threw left to Agoumba for a 29-yard play. Kerkman then took off down his own sideline on the next play for a 29-yard touchdown run.
A failed fourth down stopped the White team on its next possession again, and the Red team again took advantage with an 11-play drive that featured 10 rushes, capped by Kerkman’s 5-yarder up the middle for a 21-7 lead with 2:30 left in the first half, and the defense’s three-and-out led to the Red’s final first-half possession.
“It was just an honor to coach guys like these,” Wemhoff said. “They’re kids who are leaders in their school … they want to come here and they want to do football. It’s just fun. I mean, it was a joyful week. I enjoyed every moment of coaching them.”
* Kerkman wasn’t the only individual to set a game record. Quinton Heineman of Pender successfully made all six of his extra-point kicks, breaking the previous record of five set in 2016 by Aaron Wilken of Norfolk High.
* It was the first win for the Red team since a 14-7 triumph in 2017, and the highest-scoring contest since the White’s 40-35 victory in 2018. Until Saturday, the 2018 game was the most points the Red team had scored in an all-star game.
* The White team had won the previous four, and six out of the last seven since the Red team won each of the first two contests.
Northeast Nebraska All-Star Football Classic
Red 7 21 7 7 — 42
White 7 0 0 7 — 14
W: Aiden Kuester (N-O) 18 run, Jake Licking (NOR) kick, 9:02.
R: Karter Kerkman (NC) 2 run, Quinton Heineman (PEN) kick, 5:05.
R: Kerkman 29 run, Heineman kick, 10:26.
R: Kerkman 5 run, Heineman kick, 2:30.
R: Sedjro Agoumba (WAY) 46 pass from Abram Scholting (PIE), Heineman kick, 0:20.
R: Avery Overfelt (HOM) 5 run, Heineman kick, 2:28.
W: Will Hamer (BC) 5 pass from Kuester, Licking kick, 9:02.
R: Jaxson Bernecker (HCC) 21 pass from Scholting, Heineman kick, 4:39.