HARTINGTON - After a commanding win over Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing on Friday night, the Hartington-Newcastle now sets its sights on their next matchup - Niobrara/Verdigre.
The Cougars are not a new opponent for the Wildcats. Last year, HNS hosted the matchup and won 62-6 under the lights on Russ Hochstein Field.
This year, Niobrara/Verdigre will host the matchup in Niobrara. The Cougars started the season last week with a 72-8 loss to Stuart
HNS head coach Corey Uldrich says he does not want his team to be eager and look past this week’s matchup though.
“We have talked extensively already about how we want this game to play out,” said Uldrich. “We are looking at how we can be the best Hartington-Newcastle team we can be. If we play with great effort and take care of our responsibilities on every play, the outcome will take care of itself.”
In Niobrara/Verdigre’s first game of the season, it was a rough one for the Cougars. Allowing 32 points in the first quarter, the score was 56-8 by halftime, with Stuart holding the lead.
The lone touchdown for N/V came from senior Tim Reyes on a kickoff return in the second quarter. On the night, Reyes had four returns for 117 yards, with the touchdown coming on a 68-yard return.
To make matters worse for the Cougars, the team finished the game with negative total yards on offense with -30. The team had -40 yards on the ground with just 10 yards through the air.
Only one Cougars rusher had positive yards. Sophomore Trey Sucha had 17 carries for 18 yards and scored the two-point conversion off of Reyes kickoff return for a touchdown.
Other skill position players for N/V are freshman Chase Pritchett, who went 1-6 for 10 yards while throwing two interceptions. Reyes and Sucha are joined in the backfield by sophomore Dominic Pavlik, and senior Mathis Gierga was the lone receiver to earn stats in the Week 1 loss.
This is a stark contrast from the Hartington-Newcastle team that won 46-12 against CWCE in Week 1.
HNS displayed a tremendous offensive balance both in the team and individual statistics. HNS threw for 150 yards and rushed for 146, scoring three times through the air and four times on the ground.
Individually there was even more balance. On the ground, carries were split between senior Ethan Koch and sophomore Kobe Heitman. Koch had 10 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown, while Heitman had 10 carries for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Shaye Morten had the fourth rushing touchdown.
Through the air, the story was the same. Lincoln McPhillips had three receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown, with Turner Korth also having three receptions but for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
With the Week 1 success, Uldrich says the team is not satisfied and still saw plenty to work on during practice this week.
“We really want to improve offensively, most notably in our blocking effort and schemes, said Uldrich. “We are playing an entirely new line, and we are breaking in new skill players as well. All of the newness of this team has caused some uncertainty, so we’ll work to get everyone comfortable in their roles.”
On defense, things were not much better for the Cougars. the team allowed 424 yards of rushing off of just 39 carries, a 10.9 yard per carry average. N/V also allowed eight scores on the ground along with two more through the air. Stuart went 9-15 for 72 yards in the air with two different quarterbacks.
N/V allowed a total of 516 yards and ten touchdowns in Week 1. The Cougars were led in tackles by Sucha who accumulated 13 solo tackles with no assisted tackles. Behind him was a tie between Reyes, Pavlik and freshman Colton Vargas at 10.
With the Wildcats balance and the Cougars youth, expect this to be a mismatch in favor of Hartington-Newcastle on Friday night in Niobrara.