HARTINGTON - After a 24-21 loss to Bloomfield on Thursday night, Hartington-Newcastle football head coach Corey Uldrich seemed to assume his Wildcats would be hitting the road for the first round of the playoffs. An upset on Friday night graced HNS with a home game though against the very team that was upset.
“We had figured Friday night we would watch Wynot and Allen, and with some of the scores that came in that probably the biggest one was Clarkson-Leigh [losing to Emerson-Hubbard],” said Uldrich. “That gave us a home game essentially because we had Clarkson-Leigh figured as a seven seed and they dropped to nine now.”
Hartington-Newcastle hosts Clarkson-Leigh now in Hartington on Thursday night as a No. 8 seed facing a No. 9 seed.
Uldrich has some familiarity with some of the coaching staff that will line up across the field from him. He coached with the Clarkson-Leigh offensive coordinator during his time at Humphrey St. Francis and faced off against Clarkson during his time at HSF.
This is part of how he knows a key to a victory is stopping the dynamic running back for the Patriots.
“I know that their running back is the son of one of the coaches. Tommy Mcevoy is a really good football player and he is just a sophomore. He is going to be tough for us to handle, and in coming years he will be someone to keep an eye on.”
This year, Mcevoy led his team with 119 carries for 1,475 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also leads the team with 69 tackles. He is followed in rushing yards by quarterback Lance Paprocki with 82 carries for 382 yards and five touchdowns.
“They run a lot of veer and a lot of option so we will need to stay disciplined.”
The Patriots rely on the ground game, having only thrown the ball 36 times this season, completing it only 16 times for 282 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats are much more balanced with the pass and the run.
At the beginning of the season, Uldrich said depth could be an issue, but in this matchup that may be something, HNS has as an advantage. The Wildcats will rotate up to 13 players during the game, while the Patriots typically have 10 players in the rotation.
This is the first home playoff game for Hartington-Newcastle since the two schools merged together, and Uldrich says he hopes for a big crowd to come out. He says he has talked to Cedar Catholic coaches that will be in attendance, and he hopes that supporters of both schools come out to support the hometown team.
The Wildcats have been tested this season, with all six teams from District D2-3 making the playoffs. This is something Uldrich says is a rarity, and can’t recall the last time it happens. It is something he has talked at length with his father, Dave Uldrich, who is the head coach at Allen.
“We just had baptism [on Saturday] for our newborn, and my dad was there. He said it kind of felt every week we played it was a playoff game in our district and that is kind of the way it was. If you go back and look at all of our district games there weren’t any that we were ever out of and there weren’t any that we were so comfortable that we felt we could relax. We have been in a grinder for five weeks, and I just think this week that should help us tremendously.”
The No. 8 seed Hartington-Newcastle Wildcats will host the No. 9 seed Clarkson-Leigh Patriots on Thursday night at 7 p.m. on Russ Hochstein Field at the Hartington Community Complex. The winner of the matchup will face the winner of No. 1 seed Humphrey St. Francis and No. 16 Wausa on Wednesday, Oct. 31.