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Tradition, Hard Work at Core of Newport Central Catholic's Gridiron Success

High atop the hill that looks out across Newport and clear into the hills of Cincinnati, Newport Central Catholic gears up for what they expect to be another winning season. The Thoroughbreds have remained one of the region's elite athletic programs over the past few decades and the success of the football team reflects that strong tradition.

Over the past six seasons, NCC has combined for a record of 51-19, including a 19-1 record in district games during that span.

“Our district games are huge with Lloyd, Holy Cross and Newport, all of which are going to be pretty good this year,” said head coach Dan Wagner.

Hard work is important, but a program doesn't win that consistently without a healthy dose of talent within its ranks. This season appears no different, as the Breds have talented players in a variety of positions, highlighted by running back, Jacob Smith. The stocky, thousand-yard rusher returns this season and is expected to have a major contribution toward Newport Catholic's offensive attack for Coach Wagner.

The Breds like to run a spread formation with a lot of motion before the snap, and they like to stay balanced on offense. In order to do that, they must showcase a more than serviceable offensive line in order to protect the quarterback and clear running lanes for Smith. The line for New Cath is a big one, headlined by senior lineman Jacob Riley, already named as a captain by his teammates.

At quarterback there is a bit of competition at practice to see who will get the starting nod in the first game.

“It's a little bit up in the air right now. We got three kids battling, but we think we've whittled it down to two,” Wagner said.

Coach Wagner says the one who can keep his cool the most, will get that chance at lining up behind center with the first team.

“They're all pretty similar. Which ever one can keep it under control and not make any mistakes gets it. There is one in my mind who is starting to step forward already,” said Wagner without specifying further.

“If my quarterback starts clicking and things take off, I think we could be pretty good.”

On defense, the emphasis is to limit the opposition's ground game as the Thoroughbreds set up in a 4-4 formation which is designed to put more defenders up close to the line scrimmage to better stop the run. While this is fine against rushing teams, the concern would then crop up against teams who would rather pass the ball, as the Breds would only have three defensive backs on the field should they stay in the 4-4. In that case, Wagner says, his team would then adjust and look something more like a conventional defense.

“We should have a pretty decent defense, we got enough kids back from last year.”

New to the staff this year is former Indian Hill head coach, Mike Theisen who will work as a defensive assistant after running a 4-3 scheme for many years before coming to Newport Central Catholic.

The Thoroughbred tradition is so strong that 12 of the coaches and other staff that help the football team are all graduates of NCC.

“Everybody comes back. A lot of these kids have brothers and uncles who have played before, so there is a standard here.”

When asked how a program can remain so effective for so long, Wagner felt the work ethic of his players made the difference.

“We could run these kids for two hours and they wouldn't say anything. They might say it under their breath, but their not saying it to the coaches.”

If things carry on as tradition indicates it will, Newport Central Catholic should once more be perched atop the hill their school sits on as well as their district standings come November. The playoffs almost always come annually for the Thoroughbreds, and they expect nothing different this season.

Written by Bryan Burke, RCN Staff Writer

Photo: Newport Central Catholic High School