HARTINGTON - Every year high school sport programs lose major pieces of the program to graduation.
Hartington-Newcastle football will face this familiar obstacle again this year, losing Turner Korth, Lincoln McPhillips, Ethan Koch, and Austin Burcham.
Each played a role this year. Koch had his second consecutive 1,000 yard rushing season.
McPhillips led his team in receiving yards and touchdown catches.
Burcham played nose tackle and often filled gaps to help protect the run.
Arguably though the toughest to replace may be Korth, who has led his team in tackles for three straight years while also being one of the most versatile position players on the offensive side of the ball.
Korth finished his career with 424 total tackles, leading his team through his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons.
“That is just a lot more than I thought I would ever have,” said Korth. “I mean you just want to bring the guy down so he doesn’t score a touchdown.”
The senior said he realized he had the ability to lead his team in tackles during his sophomore year when he had a few games atop the tackle sheet. From there, his role on defense grew as he asserted himself as someone the ball carrier had to always account for, no matter what side of the field.
“He was the one guy on defense that we never moved,” said HNS head football coach Corey Uldrich. “It always seemed silly to move him out of the center of the field because I felt he was one of our guys that was able to play sideline to sideline and putting him on a side kind of limits what he could have done.”
Uldrich coached Korth for three years. Blair Kalin was Korth’s coach during his freshman year when he recorded 48 tackles his first season.
Korth followed those 48 tackles with 128 in his sophomore campaign, leading his team on the season. In his junior year, Korth posted exactly 100, and in his senior season, he had a career-high 148.
Something that Korth and Uldrich agree helped the senior have success on defense through his career is his experience with wrestling and how those skills transfer onto the field.
“Without a doubt, wrestling helped a lot with the tackling. Double leg takedown, single leg takedown, it is pretty much like with football. You just want to bring the guy down to the ground like in wrestling.”
Uldrich says wrestling also helps teach strengths that can sometimes be overlooked in football.
“I think it is balance, which is a huge part because you hardly teach that in football. You can try to teach balance but you don’t typically spend a lot of time on it. I also think the part about wrestling that is really good for the kids that do it, is that it is a very disciplined and tough sport. You have to be disciplined in what you put in your body, in trying to stay healthy, in what moves you make during a match.”
Korth wrestled in junior high, but then played basketball his first two years of high school. He qualified for the state tournament his first year back wrestling as a junior.
Korth also earned All-District honors in football for the second straight year. He had also earned an Honorable Mention as a sophomore.
As far as what Korth’s expectations were for his football career as a Wildcat, he was quick to say he exceeded them.
“That is just a lot more [tackles] than I thought I would ever have. I mean you just want to bring the guy down so he doesn’t score a touchdown.”
And for Uldrich, it gives him plenty to change in his game plan after losing another group of seniors.
“When I think of 424 and think about next year, it makes me nervous of who is going to fill that gap because that is a lot of tackles to lose.”
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