Randolph outraces Hartington-Newcastle in district opener
HARTINGTON — Randolph won on fourth down — and the game, too.
The Cardinals held Hartington-Newcastle on downs six times Friday night — and took advantage of its opportunities — in a 32-7 victory in the District D2-3 opener for both teams.
“It’s huge. Our district is really good,” Randolph coach Mark Lech said. “We know it’s not going to get any easier. … We’ve struggled up here, so this is a huge win for us.”
Randolph won despite Hartington-Newcastle owning a 303-222 advantage in rushing yards and a 320-306 edge in total offense. But the Cardinals were only stopped on fourth down twice, compared to the six for the Wildcats.
“A lot of it felt like it was on me,” H-N coach Corey Uldrich said of the team’s fourth-down struggles. “We didn’t call the right plays to score. We moved the ball up until inside the 20 or the 15, but then we stalled. Some of that is Randolph — they deserve credit. But I think a lot of it is I didn’t dial up the right things.”
The host Wildcats got a big night out of senior Ethan Koch, who rushed 26 times for 183 yards and the team’s only touchdown on homecoming night. Kobe Heitman and Turner Korth combined for another 142 yards.
“We used our quarterback, running back, and we used a motion man, and we’d give the ball to all three of them,” Uldrich said. “We tried to keep them off balance because they’re a little bit more physical than us up front. We knew that their front five were pretty good.”
The Cardinals got 123 yards and 28 carries out of senior Noah Scott. Junior quarterback Carter Schnoor rushed 12 times for 59 yards,completed five passes for another 84 yards, and accounted for three total touchdowns. Alex Schmit rushed for 40 yards and caught three passes for 50 yards.
“We have faith in all of them,” Lech said. “You saw some wild option pitches, but Noah is always going to catch the ball. Carter usually makes good decisions, and it looks like he gets beat up a lot, but man, he runs hard and he gets first downs.”
The turning point came late in the second quarter. Randolph stonewalled the Wildcats’ Ethan Koch into a loss on fourth-and-3 at the Cardinals’ 39 with 21.2 seconds left.
Schnoor then went to work, hitting Schmit for a 16-yard gain on a screen pass and then ran out of bounds for four more. A personal-foul late hit after the run put Randolph at the 11 with 3.4 seconds left, enough time for Schmit to sneak up the seam. Schnoor put the pass on target, and he added the two-point conversion on a draw with no time left for a 20-7 halftime lead.
“A lot of times, in eight-man, they think it’s run, run, run, but we have great receivers who can get open,” Schnoor said.
The Cardinals added touchdowns on back-to-back drives to begin the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Scott took an option pitch for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1, and Schnoor scored on a bootleg with 4:38 left to close out the scoring.
Make no mistake — Randolph did what it had to in order to win. But it was a frustrating result for the Wildcats, which turned the ball over on downs on all but three possessions. That included two punts and the team’s only touchdown — a 25-yard scamper by Koch in the second quarter to help pull within 12-7.
It started on the team’s first two drives, including losing three yards on fourth-and-1 at midfield. On its second drive, there were two incompletions in the end zone — a bobbled catch out of the back of the end zone on third down and then a catch out of bounds on fourth down that would have been a conversion.
“That was frustrating,” Uldrich said.
It continued in the second half.
The Wildcats used 4½ minutes of the third quarter to drive all the way to the Randolph 11, but Koch was stuffed for no gain on fourth and two. On the team’s next drive, a receiver dropped a sure first-down pass on a fake punt at midfield.
“We had a lot of success running the ball against a team that I thought is pretty good against the run,” Uldrich said. “The scoreboard’s not going to say good things for us, but when we go back and watch film, I think there are a lot of positives.”
Randolph struck first thanks to Scott, who took an option pitch from Schnoor down the Cardinals’ sideline for a 47-yard gain, and punched the pigskin across the goal line on the next play from three yards out for a 6-0 lead. Randolph doubled its lead on the second play of the second quarter when Schnoor threw a 23-yard touchdown to Schmit, who got open in the middle of the field.
“I think that running the ball inside got them all coming up to the line, and it opened up that big pass Alex caught down the middle,” Lech said. “That really got them shook, and then we were able to run a little bit.”
Randolph 6 14 0 12 — 32
Hartington-Newcastle 0 7 0 0 — 7
RAN: Noah Scott 3 run (PAT failed), 3:30.
RAN: Alex Schmit 23 pass from Carter Schnoor (PAT failed), 11:48.
H-N: Ethan Koch 25 run (Dylan Dendinger kick), 7:04.
RAN: Schmit 11 pass from Schnoor (Schnoor run). 0:00.
RAN: Scott 1 run (PAT failed), 9:51.
RAN: Schnoor 8 run (PAT failed), 4:38.