AURORA – Aurora solidified its new identity on Friday.
The Class C-1 No. 4-rated Huskies used a strong rushing game and a stingy defense to top Kearney Catholic 45-10.
“I think in the second quarter last week (against Adams Central) we started to find an identity and we found some things that we could be good at,” Aurora coach Kyle Peterson said. “We played with energy. We played with physicality. We flew to the football defensively. We forced turnovers. …
“We started that identity last week, and I really felt like we carried that momentum into this game.”
Kearney Catholic (1-1) cruised past Broken Bow in its opener, but this time the Stars found themselves staring at a 22-0 deficit before the end of the first quarter.
Aurora (1-1) used a pair of turnovers and a special teams miscue by Kearney Catholic to start three straight possessions in Stars’ territory. All three ended with touchdown runs within a span of 3:57.
On the opening possession, Kearney Catholic quarterback Heinrich Haarberg’s arm was hit as he released a pass. The led to the ball fluttering into the middle of the field with Aurora’s Kolby Wessels there to make an easy interception.
The Huskies converted a fourth down and two third downs to go 45 yards with Kaleb Moural going in from a yard out to make it 7-0 with 6:26 left in the quarter.
Winning the “money downs’ was a focus for the Huskies.
“We also got off the field on some third-and-shorts and forced them into some punting situations,” Peterson said. “We won a lot of money downs tonight – those important downs and distances – especially early in a game like this when separation starts to occur.”
Kearney Catholic couldn’t get a punt off on its second possession after a bobbled snap, and one play later Moural broke out of a pack for a 24-yard touchdown.
The Stars lost a fumble two plays later at its 26-yard line, and this time quarterback Trevor Dvorak scored on a 3-yard run. With the 2-point conversion, the Huskies led 22-0 with 2:29 to go in the first period.
The Stars got on the scoreboard on a 29-yard field goal by Spencer Hogeland 52 seconds into the second quarter, but Aurora quickly answered.
Moural scored for the third time on a 4-yard run. He finished with 106 yards on 18 carries, with 15 of them coming in the first half.
“He was really patient,” Peterson said. “I thought a week ago that he sat in the hole and didn’t trust things.
“Tonight when things didn’t look really pretty, he stuffed a run and got four or five (yards), which put us in a good down-and-distance situation. He learned a lot from last week to this week. I think he improved as much as anybody.”
Even though he is a returning starter, Moural is carrying a much heavier load on the offensive side this year after last year’s high-scoring passing attack led the Huskies to the state title.
“I feel like the game is coming to me more and more,” he said. “Last year I was a starter the entire year, but there were some games where I would only get 10 carries and we’d be done at half. This year I’m getting more comfortable and it has helped me out a lot.”
Moural credited the offensive line for his success.
“I felt that our O-line absolutely dominated tonight,” he said. “Last week I felt they were really good, but this week I felt they took a big step forward and simply owned every single play.”
Peterson said: “We did a lot of really good things on the offensive side. It wasn’t clean. It wasn’t pretty. It’s a young offensive line. But the potential of that group is high.”
Dvorak rushed for 52 yards while going 9-for-12 passing for 166 yards and a touchdown.
Aurora’s defense held the Stars in check all game to the tune of six first downs and 123 yards of total offense. Haarberg was 8-for-18 for 81 yards with a 29-yard touchdown to Austin Christner in the third quarter.
“We can be a really fast defense when we’re playing with confidence,” Peterson said. “We’re a really young group. We’ve got (sophomore) Mack Owens out there who is just running after the quarterback everywhere, but half the time I’m not sure he knows where he’s going. But he’s starting to learn and starting to figure it out.
“When this group figures things out – and we’re a long way from that – they could be pretty special.”
Aurora faces its second huge road test of the season next week at No. 1 Wahoo, a team that it defeated twice last year.
“We’ve got a big game next week and we kind of needed to get our momentum rolling,” Moural said. “I felt that tonight was a good night for that.”