KEARNEY — Kearney Catholic had a simple game plan against Auburn.
Run. Run. Run.
The Stars’ Cale Conrad carried the ball 38 times for 220 yards and scored touchdowns of 2 and 8 yards to lead the Stars to a 21-12 win in the Class C1 quarterfinals.
“We knew we wanted to establish the run game,” Kearney Catholic coach Rashawn Harvey said. “We thought we had a size advantage and we wanted to control the clock a little bit because we knew they were explosive on offense.”
Behind an offensive line that pushed forward just enough to keep the chains moving, the Stars built a 21-0 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Conrad squirted loose for a 21-yard gain in the first quarter, setting up his 8-yard touchdown run.
Quarterback Heinrich Haarberg, who ran for 43 yards on 12 carries, appeared to have run for a 43-yard touchdown just before half, but it was negated by a holding penalty. So Haarberg, who started out 0-for-6 in the passing game, hit Brett Mahony for a 33-yard gain and Austin Christner for a 17-yard touchdown on the next to plays to score with 19 seconds left.
The first drive of the second half showed the Stars’ offense at its best. Conrad scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 95-yard, 14-play drive that took almost 6 minutes off the clock.
“That was a good, time-consuming drive for us. We hit a big pass play on third down in the middle of the field and we answered the bell on every third down on that drive,” Harvey said.
Kearney Catholic continued to give Conrad the ball as they tried to run out the clock in the fourth quarter.
“He wanted it. He kept asking for it, kept asking for certain plays,” Harvey said. “When you have your running back asking for the ball and you have your O-line asking to run the ball, you have to feed them.”
Auburn finally pierced a Kearney Catholic defense that hadn’t given up a touchdown in 14 quarters when quarterback Brody Darnell hit Ryan Binder in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Darnell was 7 of 19 passing for 95 yards. He also rushed for 39 yards on 15 carries. Ryan Dixon finished with 40 yards on 13 carries.
“Going into the season when we had our meeting back in May, via Zoom, we told them if we’re going to make a run for a state championship, we can score all we want but if we can’t stop people we’re going to be in a challenging situation every game. So our kids got dedicated to stopping the run and playing good defense, and they’ve been playing lights out the last six weeks,” Harvey said.
The Bulldogs added a second score with 1:11 left in the game when Darnell picked up a Haarberg fumble and returned it 95 yards.
The Stars now will face Adams Central in the semifinals, a team they beat 33-22 on Oct. 9.
“As a coach you don’t like playing a team you’ve already beaten because they’re going to go back and look at the previous game film and make adjustments from there,” Harvey said.
KCHS 21, Auburn 12
Score by Quarters
Auburn (8-2)0 0 0 12 — 12
KCHS (9-1)7 7 7 0 — 21
KC — Cale Conrad 8 run (Spencer Hogeland kick) 1:42
KC — Austin Christner 17 pass from Heinrich Haarberg (Hogeland kick) 0:19
KC — Conrad 2 run (Hogeland kick) 3:39
Auburn — Ryan Binder 6 pass from Brody Darnell (run failed) 8:05
Auburn — Darnell 95 fumble return (pass failed) 1:11
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