Starting the season 3-0, Class C-2 No. 5 Hastings St. Cecilia has gotten off to the type of start it wanted.
Now, in week 4, the Bluehawks are set to what looks to be their biggest challenge of the regular season: a road trip to No. 7 Wahoo Bishop Neumann.
“We’re excited to go over there,” coach Clint Head said. “I think this is the first time St. Cecilia and Bishop Neumann have ever played football at Neumann. That came from their A.D. As far as they could recollect, it’s the first time we’ve gone over there. From what I understand, it’s their homecoming. It will be a great environment.”
St. Cecilia began the season with a 35-0 blowout against Wilber-Clatonia, the team that beat them both of their losses in last year’s 9-2 season.
The Bluehawks then won by the same score against Amherst before defeating Gibbon 46-21 last week.
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Head said before the season that the play of his guys up front was the greatest concern, but he’s been happy with their play, as well as many other areas.
“I think they’re doing a good job of getting on people, staying on people and finishing,” Head said. “In the secondary, we’ve done a nice job of covering and not allowing that big play. I think our linebacker play has been outstanding with Brayden Rutt leading the way.
“The other thing on offense is you have to have a trigger man. You can have talent on the outside but you have to have it and Carson Kudlacek, I can’t say enough about how he’s thrown in his last two years. This is his third year of starting on offense. He understands where we want to go with the ball. He understands how to read coverage and then on top of it, he’s athletic enough to get it there.”
Head said the top areas he wants his team to improve at is tackling, route running and getting downfield on runs.
“We’re continuously getting on the kids about getting 11 guys to the football,” Head said. “They’re doing a good job and getting better at it every week. The other thing I think we need to do is just be a little sharper with our execution and finish up front and be sharper with our routes. Our receivers have done a good job, but I think they can be better and then our backs have to work on making a solid cut, getting their shoulder down and getting an extra yard.”
Kudlacek is 29-for-51 with 649 yards and nine passing touchdowns. Receivers Cooper Butler and Jensen Anderson each have nearly 200 yards but are just two of the six receivers that have caught passes this season.
“That’s something they’ve built over time,” Head said. “This group of kids have been playing ball together since they were little. That’s a tribute to their parents for having them play together. …It’s not just those two. All of those guys have that connection.”
On the ground, the Bluehawks are led by Chase Evans who has “some pop back there.” Evans has run the ball 31 times for 288 yards and three touchdowns, averaging over nine yards a carry.
“He’s been a quarterback, so that’s one of the reasons we moved him over this year,” Head said. “He understands the zone read and the power read. He understands when and where we want the ball to go. Playing tailback came kind of natural for him.”
St. Cecilia played Bishop Neumann in the first round of the playoffs last year, resulting in a 21-14 Bluehawks’ win. Head said a lot of their players from that squad are back again.
“They love to run the option game,” Head said. “The dive option and a little bit of midline stuff, and they’ve got some counter plays. They run it really well, and they’re physical in the box, and their quarterback does a great job of running the thing. Their fullback is the kid we’re going to have to get stopped right away and when they pitch it to their tailback, he can run too.
“Defensively, their defensive line is really good, and I don’t know what else to say. They’re physical kids with good motors and are long and explosive. They also have two linebackers in there that can make things tough for you and they move well across the board.”
Neumann is also 3-0. Their main running back, Calvin Sassaman, has rushed the ball 29 times for 360 yards and twelve touchdowns, averaging 12 yards a carry.
“We’ve got to stop the run, without a doubt,” Head said. “We’re going to have to stop it and put them in situations they don’t want to be in like third and long. On the flipside of that, on our offense, we have to stay in front of the sticks because when they get you in third and long, they’re really good at bringing pressure, and they’re really good at disguising things.”
The Cavaliers aren’t the only team in C-2 standing in St. Cecilia’s way. Head said that while the playoffs are a ways away yet, “it blows you away how good the competition is in C-2.”
“When you look at Ord and what they did last week going to Battle Creek and what Battle Creek has done this season,” Head said. “You talk about Norfolk Catholic and their tailback (Karter) Kerkman, I’ve seen clips of that kid, and he’s phenomenal. When you look across the board, you forget about Archbishop Bergan or David City Aquinas. …You also look at Hartington CC and all of those guys, I think C-2 is loaded.”
Instead, the focus right now is on the Cavaliers. Head said St. Cecilia only has 25 guys on the roster, and they’re a little banged up. While the goal is to win this week, they’re in it for the long haul.
“To go over there and win that football game would be something special, but every Friday is for us right now.
“If we hit a bump in the road, we just get over it and keep moving forward,” Head said. “Everyday, we’re trying to get a little better, and we’re trying to do it so our kids stay healthy. …I talk to the guys about it all of the time, you only get this team one time. You only get this group of 25 kids and coaches one time. We need to enjoy every day we’re doing it and push each other every day. If we keep the big goal in mind, at the end of the day, everything will work out.”
Wahoo Bishop Neumann 35, Hastings St. Cecilia 31
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Central Valley at Elm Creek
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High Plains Community at Giltner
Cody Frederick covers high school football for The Independent . Last week, he went 19-6 (.760) and is 52-18 (.742) for the season.