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Friday Night Preview: Lots of River City Football Action Tonight

Here's a look at Friday night's big match-ups on the high school gridiron, as reported by RCN's Bryan Burke

Simon Kenton (8-0) at Dixie (6-1) Class 6A District 6

In perhaps the Northern Kentucky match up of the year, two teams on a roll collide at Dixie High School to likely determine the district championship of the region's largest high school division.

Simon Kenton is unbeaten but has had some close calls against inferior teams two out of the last three weeks. The Pioneers edged out a seven-point victory over a one-win Boone County team last week at home. They face a much stiffer Dixie team this week on the road.

Dixie has won six in a row after losing their opener to Covington Catholic, and are fresh off a 43-0 shutout against Campbell County last week. On offense, they are led by the smooth-operating senior quarterback Drew Moore who has over 700 yards passing and rushing and 16 total touchdowns this season. Moore regularly looks very confident orchestrating the offense and has excellent field awareness. In order for the Pioneers to contain him, they will have to limit the rushing attack first, and worry about Moore passing second.

Simon Kenton has standouts on defense that could make Moore's day more difficult. Defensive lineman Tucker Mueller is one of the best at his position in the region as he plays with good size and a tenacious motor. He plugs the interior running lanes exceptionally well and is an absolute load to block.

In the secondary for Simon Kenton is Trent Kincaid who has six interceptions in eight games. Kincaid has a nose for the ball and good hands to maximize defensive back abilities.

Lastly on defense, linebacker Barry Deaton is a wild man who makes his presence felt. Deaton is 6'4'' and 220 pounds, but it's his intensity and tenacity that makes him scary to take on. It's these three defensive players that could change the course of Dixie's offensive success.

When the Pioneers have the ball, they rely on their supreme quickness and speed on the outside. Wide receiver Logan Winkler is a special talent who is very shifty and has excellent straight-line speed in the open. It is mandatory that Dixie do a good job of tackling Winkler in the flats on quick outs because he can certainly change a modest gain into a giant one if faced with poor tackling.

Quarterback Cam Racke does a nice job of staying under control with the Pioneer offense and running back Dillon Powell has been a great relief to coach Jeff Marksberry when going to the ground. Powell has 808 yards rushing this season with nine touchdowns.

The Dixie defense also has its stars that could counter the speed of the Pioneers. If SK's Tucker Mueller is one of the best, Dixie defensive tackle Branden Johnson might be the best down lineman in Northern Kentucky. Johnson not only disrupts the running game, he applies an awesome amount of pressure on the quarterback in the pocket. Johnson has committed to play at Central Michigan next year.

Joining Johnson on the line is Colson Machlitt who also can be a nightmare for offensive linemen when trying to pass protect. Against Newport Central Catholic, Machlitt had five sacks and the team recorded 11 that day. If Simon Kenton intends to keep Racke comfortable in the pocket, they may have to use some extra blockers in pass protection.

Ryle (3-5) at Campbell County (4-3) Class 6A District 6

These two teams are heading in opposite directions, after Ryle notched an impressive win over Covington Catholic last week while Campbell County was shellacked by Dixie.

The Camels have been blown out two weeks in a row by district rivals and need this game to get them back on track for any chance of a playoff birth. Success comes to Campbell County when quarterback Carson Plessinger can find room to run. When he is forced to pass, the Camels' entire offensive scheme quickly falls apart. If Ryle wants to pull off back-to-back upsets, they must limit Plessinger.

Scott (5-1) at South Oldham (5-2) Class 5A District 4

This game is huge for district standings. Scott bounced back from their only loss of the season last week by beating Grant County, 43-0. South Oldham has won two in a row. With a win, Scott could essentially eliminate South Oldham from the playoff picture and worry about the big showdown against Conner in their finale.

Highlands (6-1) at Holmes (2-5) Class 4A District 4

Highlands suffered their first loss of the year last week after falling short to Christopher Columbus (Fla.) 38-34. They have been true to form all season despite the loss and are easily one of the more formidable teams in the region. Holmes earned a much needed victory last week at Harrison County, 12-6, snapping a five-game losing streak. There is a strong likelihood that Highlands will run away with this game early, but to prevent that from happening, the Bulldogs must find a way to score more points. They have only peaked the 20-point mark twice this season.

Holy Cross (1-6) at Newport (3-4) Class 2A District 6

Newport, in all reality, needs to win all three of their remaining games to stay in the playoff hunt. All three are against district teams and they must bounce back from a tough-loss to crosstown rival New Cath last week, 27-22. If the Wildcats can run the table, they must take care of business tonight against a beatable Indians team.

Beechwood (5-2) at Dayton (2-5) Class 1A District 3

Beechwood needs this game to keep next week's showdown against Ludlow as the district's most important match up. Last week, the Tigers beat Bellevue in the rain and head coach Noel Rash was not pleased with his team's play or trash-talking on the field. Look for the Tigers to be more disciplined against Dayton.

Ludlow (5-2) at Bellevue (4-4) Class 1A District 3

Like Beechwood, Ludlow cannot afford a loss before next week's game. The Panthers have had a quality season thus far and have and pulled off an important win at home against Dayton. If Bellevue can win, it could very well spoil Ludlow's playoff hopes.

Photo: Holmes & Holy Cross football/RCN file