MASON CITY – The Newman Catholic football team largely took care of business in the first half of the season.
With a 4-1 overall record and a 2-1 mark in district play, the Knights hit what coach Rich McCardle calls the “meat of the season.”
The opponent tonight is a West Hancock team that has been surging since the start of district play.
“Once they started districts, they put it together,” McCardle said of the Eagles. “They do it quick, they do it well.”
After an 0-2 start in non-district play, West Hancock has outscored opponents 148-32 in its three district matchups, including a 30-0 win over Grundy Center a week ago.
As has been their tradition, the Eagles feature a power running game that is spearheaded this season by MaCoy Yeakel and Tate Hagen, who have combined for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns.
While Newman features one of the most explosive offenses in the district, McCardle would like to like to see some long drives that finish in the end zone.
“We didn’t do a great job of finishing last week,” McCardle said of the Knights’ 42-21 win over Rockford. “We know we need to score.”
Ben Jacobs and Josh Fitzgerald have combined for more than 750 yards rushing for the Knights, but Newman has also passed for more than 800 yards as well.
With all of the offensive firepower in the game on both sides, the team that controls the line of scrimmage will likely emerge victorious.
For Newman, much of the burden will fall on the likes of Evan Paulus, Logan Allison and Alex Theilen, among others.
Paulus, who is a mainstay in the offensive line, is also the Knights second-leading tackler on defense with 35.5 tackles on the season.
“They’re aggressive and attack the line of scrimmage,” McCardle said. “We have a job for Paulus.”
Newman will likely be bolstered by the return of several players – including running back/linebacker Jace Leininger – who were sidelined by injury a week ago.
As if West Hancock was not enough, the Knights also had to deal with all of the distractions of Homecoming Week, although McCardle downplayed the impact once the ball is kicked off.
“They have done a nice job of focusing,” McCardle said.