HARTINGTON — Six games, six wins.
The Hartington Wildcats remained unbeaten on the year with a win over Pender Friday afternoon.
Only two other Wildcat football teams have compiled a better start on the season. The 1995 and 1965 Hartington teams started the year at 8-0, only to lose their final games of the year and finish at 8-1.
“We were able to run the ball very well and that was the key to the game,” Hartington Coach Blair Kalin said. “Pender’s size did not seem to bother us during this game.“
Hartington once again featured a punishing ground attack with Nick Miller and Alec Fuelberth leading the way as each went over 100 yards for the game. Fuelberth had 23 carries for 104 yards and Miller rolled up 103 yards on 23 carries and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns.
As a team, the Cats rolled up 233 rushing yards, while holding Pender to just 78.
The Hartington defense was led in the contest by Reece Pedersen’s nine stops.
“Defensively, we held them in check running the ball. We played very well against a good team,” Kalin said.
The Wildcats struck first as they found paydirt just two and-a-half minutes into the game when Eric Derickson slipped by the Pendragon defense on a seven-yard TD run. Nick Miller then crossed the goal line for the two-point conversion.
The Hartington defense forced Pender to punt on their next series, but the Pendragons got the ball back when they forced a Wildcat fumble then scored from one yard out when Ben Burmester crossed the goal line. Brody VandeBrug then cruised in for the two-point conversion to knot the game at 8-8 with just :18 left in the first frame.
Hartington regained the lead then extended it with a pair of Nick Miller touchdown runs. Miller found paydirt from 14 yards out with eight minutes left in the first half. Miller then connected with Adam Hochstein for the two-point conversion.
Hartington padded its lead with a 17-yard Miller TD run at the three-minute mark. Derickson broke the goal line for the conversion.
It looked like it would be more of the same in the second half as the Cats opened the half by driving the length of the field on their first series. The Pendragon defense finally stiffened on a goal line stand, though, holding the Cats out of the endzone on fourth-and-less than a foot.
Another strong Pender defensive play again put the Pendragons on the board as a blocked punt led to a two-yard Burmester TD run.
That’s all the scoring Hartington would allow, though.
The Cats closed out the win with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Derickson put another score on the board with an eight-yard touchdown run. Miller then passed the ball to him for the two-point conversion.
Alec Fuelberth broke free of the Pender defense on the Cats’ next possession, scoring on a 22-yard run. He also made it in on the two-point conversion to give Hartington the 40-14 lead with 6:54 left in the contest.
The unofficial District title game will take place here Friday when the Wildcats host Randolph. The Cats sit atop the District standings, and the Cardinals are alone in second place. If Hartington wins the game, they must then defeat 1-5 Emerson-Hubbard the next week to claim the title.
Coach Kalin said his team must work hard to prepare for Randolph.
“Randolph has a very good team. Their only losses are to Dodge-Howells and Elgin Pope John who are two very good teams,” Kalin said.
The game will be determined by the play of the Wildcat defense, he said.
“Dylan Loberg and Nolan Nordhues are two very good backs that Randolph has so we will have to play very well on defense,” he said. “We will have to control their running game and use our speed against them.”
Pender 8 0 6 0 —14
Hartington 8 16 0 16—40
First Downs 3 15
Penalties 3 4
Penalty Yds 15 35
Rushing 30-79 58-233
Passing 1-10-8 0-2-0
Receiving 1-8 —
HPS-Alec Fuelberth, 23-104; Nick Miller, 23-101; Eric Derickson, 11-26; Chris Pavlik, 1-2. Pender-Klint Conroy, 5-43; Ben Burmester, 12-27; Brody VandeBrug. 10-6; MIchael Schmidt, 1-3.
HPS-Nick Miller, 0-2-0. Pender-Brody VandeBurg, 1-9-8; Josh Davis, 0-1-0.
Pender-Klint Conroy, 1-8.
HPS-Reece Pedersen, 9; Eric Derickson, 8; Pat Wortmann, 7; Alec Fuelberth, 6; Ty Dybdal, 5; Nick Miller, 4; Taylor Fischer, 1; Riley Haug, 1; Jordan Menning, 1. Pender-Ben Burmester,8; Nick Svoboda, 4; Brody VandeBurg, 4; Devan Kaup, 4; Klint Conroy, 3; Tyler Thomsen, 2; Garrett Bowder, 1; Devin Soll, 1.