Union’s most successful football coach steps away from program he took to new heights

By Mike Whittlesey

In a video message to fans of Union High School football, Head Coach Joe Hadachek announced he is stepping away from the program he has taken to unprecedented success over a twelve year run.

“Thank you. Thank you for your support. Thank you for being in the stands, whether the weather was warm, whether it was windy, rainy or we had the blessed opportunity to go to the UNI-Dome,” he stated.

Hadachek also thanked his wife, Gloria, who “has been a rock for me.”

“The thing that still holds dear to me are the relationships we have, still today, with the players that have played [from alumni to present]. They are the bricks and mortar that have been part of such a fun ride,” he added.

It’s hard to imagine now, but during a stretch that spanned three seasons (2000 to 2002), the Union Knights lost 22 consecutive football games. As then Head Coach Mark Hubbard began the process of rebuilding the high school program, Hadachek and Don Sallee, with the help of others, launched a youth football program in 2003 that would ultimately make good on three simple words it proclaimed: We Build Champions. When Coach Hubbard departed to take the reins of the Waverly-Shell Rock program in 2007, Athletic Director Aaron Thomas and Union Football turned to Joe Hadachek to lead the Knights to the next level. And boy did he ever deliver.

Coming off a 4-5 season, Hadachek guided the Knights to a 6-3 record and third place finish in the Class 2A District 4 standings in his first season. Not quite good enough for a postseason berth, it would be the last time Union would play just nine games in a season during the Hadachek Era.
The next two seasons, the Knights posted 7-2 records, making just their second and third trips to the state playoffs in school history. Despite losing in the first round of the playoffs, 2010 was a magical season. Competing in Class 3A, Union ran the table for its only undefeated regular season and Hadachek was named District Coach of the Year.

With high hopes and even higher expectations for the program in 2011, mid season injuries nearly derailed the Knights. It was the insertion of sophomore quarterback Jay Scheel into a reconfigured offensive backfield that helped allow Union to close the season strong and finish second in the district standings. The dynamic playmaking abilities of Scheel, All-State running back Wes Burnside and Trev Hadachek, who moved from quarterback to wide receiver following a shoulder injury, proved to be too much for the rest of Class 3A, as the Knights went on a remarkable run through the state playoffs. After a nail-biting win over Washington, Union took out four-time defending state champion Solon before avenging a regular season loss to undefeated rival Maquoketa. The Knights then blew out top-ranked ADM-Adel in the UNI-Dome before defeating Decorah for the first state championship in school history. We build champions, indeed. Recent years have seen the program continue to succeed, with back-to-back trips to the UNI-Dome in 2016 and 2017.

While the success of programs can certainly be measured by wins and losses, there is much more that can be said of Joe Hadachek’s leadership off the field. One only needs to look at the many Fields of Faith opportunities hosted on the Union football field to understand where his priorities are in life.

“I give God all the glory for everything that’s ever happened in this program, the tough battles and the victories won. No matter what, there’s always a plan in place greater than any coach could ever do. And for all those blessings, I give thanks to Him,” Hadachek said in his message to fans.

Moving forward, the strength of the entire athletic program will continue to benefit from Hadachek’s dedicated service to the school, as his leadership helped make a state-of-the-art weight room facility the community continues to enjoy, possible.

Saying the decision to leave the program has “been kinda yearning at me for awhile now,” Hadachek will turn his attention to other projects and activities that revolve around faith, family and raising bison.