Union’s come-from-behind victory at Crestwood in the first round of Class 2A play-offs gave Knights fans a glimpse into the next year’s team.Brit Rolison’s 49-yard touchdown run provided the first spark after Crestwood had quickly jumped to a 7-0 lead and the Cadet defense had stifled the Knight offense on its first possession. Rolison, one of two sophomores who hope to fill the shoes of senior Isaiah Vaughan next season, led the Knights with 112 yards rushing and two TD runs.
Sophomore Junior Kody Alpers made a diving catch in the end zone on a 4th-down pass from Troy Hanus as the Knights erased a 13-7 deficit and began the rally that led to a 31-13 win. Alpers caught five passes from his wide receiver position and made some big plays on defense, breaking up passes
“Brit is a special athlete,” says Coach Joe Hadachek of the sophomore who scored Union’s first TD. “He has quickness and a burst when he hits the hole. Last year he showed he can start for us at RB when needed.”
Along with Rolison, sophomore Kaleb Roach has played a big role in this season.
“We are fortunate to have two really good RBs who can run and a third guy, Roach, who would be playing in a normal year,” Hadachek explains. Right now, Kaleb is only starting on special teams. His role is to spell Isaiah when needed and to be part of our Wildcat packages. He is a great jet sweep type guy. He’s tough to find behind our big o-linemen and by the time defenders find him, he hits another speed.
Also says the coach, Rolison fulfills another important role that doesn’t always appear on a stat sheet.
“Probably what you didn’t see Friday night is how good a blocker he is and how good a tackler he is. He has an extremely bright future here along, with Roach,” Hadachek says.
As the Knights took charge in the third quarter, Hadachek spoke to his linemen, telling them they are in much better shape then their opponents, and were wearing them down. That, says the coach, is the result of a commitment to year-round strength and conditioning.
“Health is vitally important throughout the year,” he explains. “Sometimes you have a year where you don’t have many injuries and then sometimes you have a year where they are abundant. All we can control is how we prep coming into August and also what we do for strength and conditioning in-season. Our kids work hard starting December 1 and they buy in to our strength and conditioning program. Coach Denner does a great job with that aspect of our program. We also believe in four times a week lifting in-season. The sessions are not long, usually 20 minutes, but the kettlebell workouts can maximize your time in 20 minutes with overall strength and conditioning. We also borrowed a shoulder routine from the Tennessee Titans and it helps protect that area of the body. Year-round strength training is just what’s expected here at Union.”
The Knights enter tonight’s game with their regular defensive line-up. During the first game at North Fayette, where Union fell behind 35-0 and lost 56-21, senior Jordan Schmitz was out following a concussion in a previous game. Linebacker Brock Hadachek took his place on the defensive line.
But this week, Schmitz and Hadachek will be in their normal places when they take on NF.
“Not having Jordan was tough the first game but our second team guys know our expectations are to be ready at all times. To have a week to prepare without a guy is better than one going down on Friday night,” says Hadachek. “Our preparation will not change no matter the status of North Fayette’s health or our own. At this point of the season the team, that stays the most healthy has the best chance. You don’t want to beat each other up in practice. If hey don’t know how to block and tackle by now it’s a little late. Our approach is to focus on what we can control and that is a great week of practice and being intense about doing our job. If each player focuses on his job and doesn’t worry about anything else, we have the best chance to compete on Friday night. Film study is very important at this time of year as well as studying a scouting report. Our staff does a great job in both of those areas.”
North Fayette will be playing without one of its leading rushers, Jesse Mackey. He scored twice against Union and ran for 142 yards vs. the Knights.
Hadachek told his players that it’s tough to beat the same team twice in one season; they are confident heading back to West Union tonight, but are aware of the challenge they face.
“North Fayette has been #1 for the majority of the season and there is good reason for that. To go up to there place two times in one year is not ideal,” says Hadachek, adding that he hopes the Iowa High School Athletic Association can find a way to have the top-ranked teams in boys’ sports play each other later in the post-season.
“The girls’ association seems to have it figured out – how to separate the top teams into different regions. Hopefully in the future the IHSAA can do the same in football,” Hadachek said.
The Knights travel to West Union for a rematch with #1 rated North Fayette Valley who beat New Hampton Friday night and raised their record to 10-0. Game time is 7pm.=