Sep 15, 2023

Knights and Bearcats Meet for All-NCAA Duel

Posted Sep 15, 2023 5:18 PM

Lead Sportswriter - Salina Post

Salina Regional Orthopedic and Sports Medicine – Your home-field advantage starts here
Salina Regional Orthopedic and Sports Medicine – Your home-field advantage starts here

With a quarter of the regular season already in the books, the Sacred Heart Knights will square off with Ellsworth on Friday night as they kick off the home portion of their schedule.

The Knights (0-2), enter this contest in search of their first win after falling to Minneapolis in a shutout a week ago, while the Bearcats (2-0) come in ranked as the #5 team in Class 2A, hot on the heels of a 62-6 bashing of Republic County.

Despite the pregame odds, Sacred Heart will be hungry to put their best foot forward this week in another challenge against a rising league foe.

“These boys expect to be competitive in this game and if somebody said Ellsworth was a heavy favorite a lot of the boys in this locker room would argue with you,” Knights head coach Norm Jennings said. “I love the attitude of this team and I hope that continues to build and define Sacred Heart football.”

While the Knights focus on rebuilding their program, the Bearcats have emerged as a real contender for a second consecutive season, and will look to continue a recent run of dominance that has seen the team win nine of their last ten regular season games.

“We’re still looking for improvement in our offense on both sides of the ball,” Ellsworth head coach Josh Homolka said. “We were a lot more crisp in practice this week and I think we had some of the best practices we’ve had in several years here.”

In order to have success, Sacred Heart will once again need a big performance out of Michael Matteucci, who has been the centerpiece of the offense through two weeks, floating between quarterback, receiver, and at times, running back.

“Mike is absolutely critical to what we do and that’s a testimony to his football IQ,” Jennings said. “He understands what’s happening on the field and he makes very sound judgement calls. He understands the weapons around him and he knows how to get everyone involved when we need them.”

To stop Matteucci and company, the Bearcat defense will need another big week, as they take on a look that they’ve practiced defending since summer workouts.

“They run a flex wing offensively and we have things that we work on all year round when to face that,” Homolka said. “Matteucci is a kid that can run well and he can throw it too so our cover guys are going to have to stay home and we’re going to have to get hats to the ball.”

On the other side of the matchup, the Knight's defense will have their hands full with a Bearcat offense averaging 42 points per game, still warming up one of it’s best weapons in transfer Ian Andalon.

“The defense really rose up for us last year and they did the same thing last week,” Jennings said. “I was so proud of that unit and to have so many kids shifted around to some different positions I thought they really responded well.”

Meanwhile, to stake their third consecutive win, and what would be their fourth straight over Sacred Heart, the Bearcats will need to lean into the “all business” mentality that’s allowed them to build a 2A juggernaut.

“They play a gap-sound 4-4 similar to us and they’ve been solid on that side of the ball,” Homolka said. “Offensively we need to be physical up front and defensively we have to stop the run and keep things in front of us.”

Kickoff between the Knights and Bearcats is set for 7:00 in Salina and as always the game can be streamed with live audio and video on the Salina Post.