Union pummeled by sixth-ranked New Hampton, 38-3

Knights' early 3-0 lead short-lived

By Cheyne Reiter

The Union Knights were walloped 38-3 Friday night in La Porte City against another solid district foe, 2A’s sixth-ranked New Hampton Chickasaws.

Last season, Union QB Jay Scheel turned in the play-of-the-year during the Knights’ matchup with the Chickasaws. He hurdled a New Hampton defender en route to a big offensive gain.

This season, the Chickasaws had plenty of their own play-of-the-year candidates, including back-to-back pick-6’s of 68 and 34 yards off of the Hawkeye-bound Scheel. The two second-quarter interceptions expanded New Hampton’s 11-point lead to 25 in a matter of seconds and erased any hopes of a Knights comeback.

The loss marked the fourth straight overall for the Knights (4-4, 2-3 2A D3) whose offensive struggles reached an all-time high. The Knights were held to 123 yards of total offense and only managed a first-quarter field goal – a 39-yarder by Eskild Eriksen – for a brief 3-0 lead.

New Hampton’s defense stifled Scheel to the tune of 10-of-22 for a meager 84 yards through the air. They also held the dual-threat QB to an astounding -11 yards rushing on 10 carries. Halfback Jacob Holschlag was bottled up as well. The junior accumulated a season-low 27 yards on 14 rushes. Holschlag’s backup Noah Garwood found mild success on the ground as he led all Knights ball carriers with 32 yards on five carries. Union Head Coach Joe Hadachek reiterated his search for more offensive weapons.

“Teams are always going to key on Scheel…they have for the past two years,” said Hadachek. “We need other players to step up and make plays.”

Who those players are has yet to be determined. Wideouts Brady Driscol and Tate Hadachek have shown glimpses of success. Senior WR Kolten Bader has a three-touchdown game to his credit. For the Knights to have any immediate success, it’s a matter of somebody stepping up consistently, especially in a leadership type role.

“Great teams have great leadership,” said Hadachek. “Everything rises and falls with leadership. For us to win next Friday night (at Columbus) and secure a playoff berth, we have to have somebody lead us.”

Despite another 35-point loss, the Knights still control their postseason fate. If they win, they’re in. First-round home field advantage is out of the equation, but Union does have a realistic shot at a third place finish in District 3.

Union’s final regular season home game, however, was one they’d like to forget.

New Hampton (8-0, 5-0 2A D3) took their first lead of the night on a 1-yard TD plunge by Conner Frerichs. They made it 14-3 on a 10-yard TD pass from Cole McDonald to Kyle Smith. Scheel’s devastating interceptions followed, making it 28-3 at the break.

The Chickasaws tacked on 10 second-half points to complete the scoring. Frerichs scored his second TD on a 22-yard run in the third quarter and Smith booted a 25-yard field goal in the fourth.

Union lost the turnover battle 4-0 and were penalized six times for 55 yards, two statistics the Knights have battled in all four losses.

Coach Hadachek hasn’t dealt with adversity such as this in his six-plus years of coaching, yet a win Friday night and the Knights will play in the postseason for a seventh straight season, all under Hadachek himself.

“A postseason opportunity is on the line Friday night,” said Hadachek. If we can get to the postseason, we give ourselves another season of opportunity and the chance to surprise some people come playoff time.”