MASON CITY – After a tough loss at Grundy Center last Friday, the Newman Catholic football team still is in control of its own destiny, but the Knights face a must-win game at Rockford today.
The 3-1 Knights might be favored on paper against the 0-4 Warriors, but a pass-happy Rockford offense has Newman coach Rich McCardle concerned.
“It is a district game that gets us closer to our goal,” McCardle said. “You don’t play football games on paper.”
McCardle doesn’t have to point any farther than last year’s game with the Warriors for motivation.
The Knights were in a similar position last season when Rockford jumped out to a two-touchdown lead before Newman got untracked.
The Knights ultimately pulled away for a 62-24 win.
Newman puts a balanced offense on the field that has passed for 700 yards and rushed for 661 yards after four games.
By contrast, nearly 78 percent of Rockford’s yardage this year has come through the air
Zach Bushbaum, a senior quarterback, has thrown for 700 yards and four scores.
Tanner Grady has 23 receptions for 251 yards and a score.
One issue for Newman is that, for the first time this season, the Knights will have to work around some injuries.
Most of the Newman injury issues are minor, but on a roster with just 29 players, McCardle does not have a lot of wiggle room
“Our lineman are all healthy,” McCardle said. “We started with all of our skill positions playing multiple positions, so we have more flexibility there.”
Health will be a huge factor for Newman going forward as, after Rockford, the Knights West Hancock and St. Ansgar, two other top contenders in the district, in consecutive weeks.
For McCardle, though, down the road is a long way off, and Rockford is a much closer obstable.
“We need to be focused,” McCardle said. “It takes a lot of energy to do what we do.”