Oct 04, 2022

Sacred Heart rebuild ahead of schedule heading into home stretch

Posted Oct 04, 2022 8:24 PM

Salina Post contributor

Coverage of Sacred Heart football is presented by Salina Ortho: Quality orthopedic care when you need it!
Coverage of Sacred Heart football is presented by Salina Ortho: Quality orthopedic care when you need it!

With first-year head coach Jeremy Hopkins steering the ship, the Sacred Heart rebuild is well ahead of schedule and the Knights will enter the final three weeks of the regular season as one of just five teams in the area at 3-2 or better.

Sacred Heart raised eyebrows across the state with a 20-19 win over 3A Wichita Trinity in week one and with additional victories in weeks four and five the Knights are above .500 in the home stretch for the first time since 2015.

“With the exception of one step backward in week two we’ve gotten better each and every week,” Hopkins said. “They’re applying what we’re teaching them and steadily improving and that’s showing on film.”

This turnaround in Salina has been made all the more impressive by major shifts in the Sacred Heart backfield, where wideout Michael Matteucci has made the transition to quarterback, sliding former QB Evan Bogart to running back.

“We’ve got some experienced guys in some new positions so we’re learning on the fly in our backfield,” Hopkins said. “Those guys have been doing great getting on the same page with our receivers but it’s all a work in progress.”

Statistically, these moves have paid off as Bogart and Matteucci, along with Thomas Cheney are all at or above 150 yards rushing this season.

Much of that newfound success can also be attributed to the Knights' offensive line, a unit that has matured rapidly throughout the season.

“I believe our offensive line is quickly becoming a strength and that’s how you win football games,” he said. “That group has improved the most since week one.”

On defense, the Knights have tightened the screws on their last two opponents, holding Belle Plaine and Valley Heights to just six combined points in a pair of big wins.

Before the season began, Coach Hopkins made clear the importance of developing a winning mentality, something Sacred Heart struggled to do in six straight losing seasons.

Despite building this mindset from the ground up, the Knights have dedicated themselves to steady improvement through the good days and bad, and the wins have followed.

“At this point, that winning mentality has become second nature to us,” Hopkins said. “They understand that they can win and to a degree, they’ve begun to expect to win when we take the field. I think at this point the guys are just hungry for more and mentally I’d say we’re ahead of schedule.”

While it would be easy for a team like Sacred Heart to look ahead of their newfound success, the Knights remain focused on taking things one step at a time and haven’t talked much about what lies beyond district play just yet.

“We’re still taking these games one at a time and this week all of our focus is on Wabaunsee,” he said. “We think that we should be competing to win in every game as long as we keep putting the work in. The guys have measurables to see how much they’ve improved and that's driven them to work even harder.”

Sacred Heart will get its biggest test of district play on Friday when the Knights travel to Wabaunsee to challenge the 4-1 Chargers.

For more on Knights football all season long stay tuned to the Salina Post.