NORFOLK, Neb. -- “You better be at your best because the playoffs are right around the corner,” said Norfolk Catholic Head Coach, Jeff Bellar.

That was the overall message from Bellar at Wednesday’s practice as the team prepares for a showdown come Friday night against Cedar Catholic.

The Knights entered the season coming off a loss to Archbishop Bergan in the state championship game last year.

Bellar said his team now knows what it’s like to play in a game like that.

“They got all the way to the end last year which was very very good [but] beaten by a very good football team,” Bellar said. “But once you taste that then it’s fun to go back and play and try to win.”

Offensively, Bellar has been pleased with the play from that group.

But like a lot of coaches say, it starts up-front.

“I think it starts with your offensive line,” Bellar said. “The guys have blocked well up front. They take a lot of pride in that.”

For the skill players, he said one guy in particular who returned has made a difference.

“Karter Kerkman was a guy who rushed for 1,850 yards a year ago,” Bellar said. “We knew we wanted to get him the ball.”

Kerkman said a more experienced offensive line this year has been the biggest factor.

“Our linemen got a year of reps last year,” Kerkman said. “Most of them all started. Four of them did. They just know what to do and they’ve really seen most of the schemes we’ve been playing against.”

Defensively, the Knights have not given up more than 14 points all season long.

Bellar pointed to players returning as a reason for that side of the ball’s success.

“I think good experience back,” Bellar said. “We didn’t have a lot of seniors a year ago on our football team. We thought we would have experience back.”

He also praised Cedar Catholic and added they play a relatable type of football like his Knights.

“Hartington [Cedar Catholic] is really similar to us,” Bellar said. “They’re a good run football team. Their quarterback is very mobile. So offensively we’ll have to defend the option football.”

And if you think the Knights might be overlooking the Trojans, that’s not the case.

“Right now we got to focus on Cedar,” Bellar said.” Then they’ll be a playoff game and then hopefully another one and we’ll just see where that takes us.”