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Friday Night Preview: Surging Beechwood & New Cath Collide

Beechwood (7-2) at Newport Central Catholic (4-4)

Both of these teams ran a perfect course within district play after each began the year on rockier roads.

New Cath evened their record on the year after going 0-4 before beginning district play. They went on to win their next four and head into the final week of the regular season with a lot of momentum on their side. The Thoroughbreds have relied on the legs of junior running back Jacob Smith who has racked up 748 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year.

Beechwood has been on an even stronger roll, winning seven straight including big wins against Covington Catholic and Bellevue. The Tigers have already secured the top spot in their district and have a date set to host Bracken County on November 7 in the first round of the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if Beechwood is focused on the task at hand against New Cath or if they are already looking ahead to postseason play.

“It's NCC week. There's no looking ahead on NCC week, none whatsoever,” said Beechwood head coach Noel Rash. “They're a good football team. They've been putting all of their pieces together and working out their kinks. We have to play really well to beat them.”

Running back Joe Studer has been out with a leg injury since Week 7, but Coach Rash feels good about the health of the rest of his team.

“We're about as healthy as we can be for Week 10,” Rash said. “Joe Studer isn't back yet, but he'll be back soon and when he gets back, we should be at full tilt.”

With the weather predictions threatening snow for Friday night, finding an advantage in the ground game becomes perhaps even more important than usual. Beechwood has displayed some impressive showings with their offensive linemen pushing the pile, particularly in their game against Cov Cath earlier this season. New Cath has also had quality games from their offensive front during their winning streak. Coach Rash credited that for their prolonged success as a program.

“That's why programs stay good for so long, because they understand the formula, and the formula is really simple: you win in the trenches. You win on the offensive and defensive fronts and New Cath never gets away from that philosophy, so they're always going to make sure that the line is secured first and they work out from there. That will be something we will have to neutralize if we're going to have a chance.”

Another factor in this game could be penalties. Beechwood has walked away from blowout wins with high penalty counts. After their win against Bellevue, Rash said that if it continues, it will come back to bite them sooner or later. On Wednesday, he emphasized it again.

“We tend to get a little lackadaisical at times,” Rash said at practice on Wednesday. “The penalties have been mostly jumping offsides and things like that, and that's aggressive penalties. There's a part of me that understands that, but there's also a part of me that says we need to be more disciplined and that's something that has to happen.”

The winner will not improve their district standings, but it should provide a heavy dose of confidence heading into postseason play the following week.

Mason County (7-2) at Scott (6-2)

The Scott Eagles have mostly had a very successful season this year under coach Dan Woolley but they have experienced losses to Cooper and South Oldham later in the year which spoiled their district championship aspirations. Mason County will serve as a quality litmus test for the Eagles as they are a strong team that edged out Newport in the season opener, 32-28.

Scott features a heavy run attack and are headlined by explosive tailback Roberto London who has rushed for over 800 yards this season. The Eagles also often give the ball to Deondre Pleasant who has totaled seven rushing touchdowns, and has also scored on punt returns and interceptions this year. If they can find a way to move the ball on the ground against Mason County, they may end a quality year with a premium win.

Newport (5-4) at Holmes (2-7)

The annual season-finale game between these teams looked like a better match up before the year started. Holmes has had a tough go of things this year as they have struggled to score points all season, including back-to-back shutouts in the last two weeks. Head coach Ben Nevels has his team playing hard, but doesn't appear to have the talent this year to compete like they expected to.

The Wildcats are another high-effort team as their coach, Matt Schmitz, has put together a nice year despite playing a tough schedule. Newport did lose a pivotal game to NCC, 22-17, in early October that dashed their hopes of a district title, but they have scored 51 points in both of their wins since. The Wildcats have had three separate players top the 500-yard rushing mark this season. If the Bulldogs want to end the year with a bright spot by pulling the upset, they must limit Newport's drives and find a way to score over 25 points—something they have not done all season.

Holy Cross (1-8) at Campbell County (5-4)

Campbell County is treated to a softer game after battling through Class 6A play with the other big schools. The Camels began the season well going 4-1, but did not fair as well in their district going just 1-3 in those games. Quarterback Carson Plessinger has been their go-to guy rushing over 200 times and throwing for 100 passes in 2014.

The Indians have not fared well at all this season, and have amassed a 2-18 record the last two seasons under coach Bruce Kozerski. With a young roster, the Holy Cross future looks brighter, but for now their struggles are likely to continue against a bigger Camels team.

Cooper (6-3) at Dixie (8-1)  (Thursday)

Dixie has already clinched the top spot of their district after cruising through their schedule following an opening-season loss at Cov Cath. Dixie has signature wins against New Cath, Campbell County and Simon Kenton this season and have looked to improve week by week. Dixie hosts Tates Creek the following week to begin their playoff run. The Colonels beat Tates Creek, 43-6, on the road previously this season.

Cooper lost their chance to win the District 4 title last week at South Oldham, 27-21, and are hoping to avoid going into postseason play with back-to-back losses.

Carroll County (3-6) at Dayton (2-7)

The Greendevils hope to score this week on senior night after getting shutout the previous two weeks, 62-0 and 61-0. In Dayton's favor is the fact that Carroll County has allowed over 30 points all but once this year.

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor

Photo: Newport Central Catholic facing Holmes earlier in the season/RCN file by Brian Frey