Mate Dei senior Zach Napovanice is adjusting to his new offensive role just fine.
A wide receiver turned running back, Napovanice was all over the field Friday, scoring four touchdowns as he led the Knights to a 41-20 road win against Althoff.
With Knights coach Jim Stiebel showcasing all of the 5-11, 185-pound Napovanice’s abilities for the first time in 2019, the Knights (2-1) broke open a close game at halftime with three second half touchdowns to post their second straight win over the Crusaders.
Althoff, despite getting three touchdown passes from senior quarterback Will Ache, fell to 0-3.
Zapovanice, who unofficially finished with 156 yards on the ground, capped a lengthy Knights drive with a 3-yard run in the opening six minutes then hauled in scoring passes of 35 and 43 yards from senior quarterback Reed Braundmeier in the second quarter.
Taking advantage of three Althoff turnovers in the second half, the Knights assumed control. Following an interception, Braundmeier scampered in from 14 yards out for a 28-20 lead.
Napovanice then ended his night with a 4-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter. In addition to his big night on the ground, Napovanice also caught eight passes for 135 yards.
“I like playing running back. I’m getting hit more often, but I like being in the backfield and being able to see the entire field,” Napovanice said. “A lot of credit goes to the offensive line tonight. Those guys did a tremendous job all game long.”
Stiebel, an Althoff graduate and one of the great players in Althoff football history, has simply turned Napovanice loose in the last six quarters. Trailing Marquette at halftime last week, Napovanice and the Knights broke loose for 28 second half points in a come-from-behind victory.
On Friday, the Knights didn’t wait long to showcase Napovanice.
“We didn’t show everything the first two weeks,’’ Stiebel said. “In the first half tonight, they (Althoff) did a lot of good things. In the second half, we were able to put pressure on their quarterback and kind of push back a little bit.’’
Althoff, playing its third state power in the first three weeks of the season, played well early. With Ache throwing touchdown passes of 48 yards to Nick Alberico, 72 yards to Jordan Warner and nine yards to Jhayden Fridge, Althoff cut a 21-7 deficit to 21-20 at halftime.
Ache threw for 252 yards in the first half.
But coach Ken Turner’s team couldn’t sustain the same type of execution in the second half. The opportunistic Knights turned two of Althoff’s three second half turnovers into 14 points.
“I was very pleased with how we came back after falling down by a couple of touchdowns early. We moved the football well and our offensive execution was very good in the first half,” Turner said. “In the second half, I don’t think it was anything they (Mater Dei) changed at halftime. It’s just that we didn’t execute as well.
“We have played three really good football programs the first three weeks of the season. We can’t get down. We start the (South Seven) conference season next week. We just need to continue to try and get better each day.”
Both teams resume action at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, as Mater Dei visits Freeburg and Althoff opens South Seven Conference play at home against Mount Vernon.