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Playoff Showdowns Set: Newport Vs. New Cath, Highlands Vs. Cov Cath, Dixie Vs. Simon Kenton

Friday night's second round of the high school football playoffs has set up some big rivalry games for next week.

Highlands will meet Covington Catholic. Newport faces Newport Central Catholic. Dixie Heights takes on Simon Kenton.

How did they get there?

The River City News's Bryan Burke, Brian Frey, and Jason Finnell hit up some of the games and have these results.

Newport 37, Walton 36 (OT)

Down by a point in overtime to Walton Verona, and with the season on the line, Newport head coach Matt Schmitz rolled the dice and went for two instead of kicking the extra point that would have extended the game.

“I put it in my guy's hands. That's a good bet, I'll take that bet any time and he did it,” Schmitz said.

His guy, senior quarterback Paul Price, took the shotgun snap and rolled into the end zone, getting the winning two-point conversion, 37-36, and giving the Wildcats another shot at their crosstown rivals, Newport Central Catholic, in the next round.

“In my mind, I knew I was going to score,” Price said after the game. “I had confidence in my offensive line and my team and I just knew that we were going to win.”

The contest was a thriller and felt almost like a basketball game the way the two teams made spirited second-half runs to force overtime.

With the score tied at 14 apiece at the half, Newport came out of the locker room the strongest as they put up 15 points in the third quarter. The first touchdown was a catch by running back Dominic Joseph on a slant pattern in the end zone. After forcing a turnover on downs on the next possession, Newport scored again, this time on a short run by Tyree Bolden, making the score 29-14.

The game then became chippy as both sides were flagged for multiple unsportsmanlike conduct and personal foul penalties. Late in the third quarter, the game looked nearly over.

The Bearcats caught fire in the fourth, though, and rallied all the way back to tie the game late, capped off by a tense two-point conversion by Will Latimore to even the score.

Newport got the ball back in the fourth quarter and with the score tied, but was unable to get a first down despite starting in excellent field position on a good return by Brian Burton. Defensive end Kameron Covington then lined up on fourth down and punted a beautiful ball, pinning the Bearcats on the one with less than a minute left to play.

Two plays later, it appeared that the unthinkable had happened to the Wildcats as Latimore took a handoff and got free to the outside, running past the entire Newport defense and on his way to a 97-yard playoff game-winning score. The Walton Verona fans went nuts, but only briefly, because, lo and behold, a penalty flag had been thrown all the way back at the line of scrimmage for a holding call. Latimore was momentarily crushed as he sat with his helmet off for the last few plays of regulation. It was Latimore's second long touchdown run called back because of a penalty on the day.

Coach Schmitz strongly believes that the only thing that can stop his players are themselves and it has showed during these playoffs.

“Like I've told you all along, it's not about who we play, it's about us,” he said.

In high-school playoff overtime, each team gets the ball at the opposing 10-yard line. If the score remains tied after each team has had possession, another overtime is played the same way.

Walton Verona got the ball first and scored right off the bat on their first play with a Latimore run to the right, where he cut back and reached the ball across the line as he was tackled.

Newport came right back and scored on their first play too, setting up the do-or-die two-point conversion moment. As the Wildcat players trotted back onto the field to attempt the conversion, they looked confident, dancing around and waving their arms. When Price coasted in to score the game-winner, it looked easy.

“Our team is confidence because we love each other. We're family, we're brothers,” Price said.

The Wildcats want payback on New Cath after losing a similarly close game to them in Week 7, 22-17. They have earned their chance for a repeat showdown next Friday night.

-Bryan Burke

Newport Central Catholic 39, Lloyd 17

The Thoroughbreds continued their resurgence in the second half of the season after losing their first four games.

Lloyd came in with the better record, at 8-3, but New Cath was one of the Juggernauts' losses, a 28-0 shellacking earlier in the season. Lloyd struck early this time, scoring on its first two drives and taking a 10-0 lead. 

From then on, it was all New Cath, though, and the 'Breds took a 19-10 lead to the locker room at halftime. Lloyd struggled to move the ball and suffered from several costly penalties that ended in punts.

New Cath answered with two more touchdowns, pulling away and winning by 22.

-Brian Frey

Dixie 46, Ryle 21

Addressing his team on the field after dominating Ryle 46-21 Friday night, Dixie Heights Head Coach Dave Brossart told his team they had a chance to do something special: Host a third round playoff game on its home turf. While it may be unfamiliar territory for the Colonels, their opponent is not – Simon Kenton, a team they defeated in week eight.

“We’ve got another little block in our goal. We’ve gotta knock down Simon Kenton,” he said to the nodding approval of his players.
 
Senior quarterback Drew Moore continued his standout season on Dixie’s first drive, keeping a fake handoff and outrunning Ryle defenders 72 yards for his first touchdown of the evening on a play that gave the Raiders’ fits all game long.
 
 
Ryle’s second drive of the game came up empty but they escaped disaster twice. After nearly turning the ball over fumbling the kickoff, Raiders’ senior quarterback Ryan Rytlewski threw an errant pass into the hands of Dixie senior defensive back Peter Fields. But the ball fall harmlessly to the turf. 
 
Beginning on their seven yard line, the Colonels converted several first downs via runs by senior running back Luke Zajac and Moore. Again catching the Raiders defense out-of-position, Moore kept the ball and ran around the right side 20 yards for a 13-0 Dixie lead.
 
The following drives for each team featured missed opportunities.
 
After Ryle was forced to punt, it was unable to take advantage of a failed trick play by the Colonels. A reverse pass intended for Moore was picked off but after a 20-yard run by Raiders junior running back Collin England, Rytlewski was sacked twice and Ryle had to punt once again.
 
On third down, Moore found junior wide receiver Gunther Faeth wide-open at the 10-yard line but Faeth dropped what would’ve been a sure touchdown, squandering a chance to add to the Colonels’ lead.
 
But Dixie would bounce back shortly thereafter.
 
On its ensuing possession, Moore again kept the football for a 65-yard touchdown run for his third score of the game and a 20-0 advantage.
 
Ryle was able to get on the board before halftime with a 59-yard touchdown pass from Rytlewski to 
 
sophomore Bryce Ashley, who raced down the sideline, diving into the end zone just out of the reach of 
 
Dixie defenders. The Raiders were back in the game, 20-7 but the second half proved to be a different tale.
 
Its first possession of the third quarter, Zajac took the handoff 88 yards up the middle to put the home team up 27-7.
 
The Raiders quickly gave the ball back to Dixie, who continued to put the game out-of-reach with 
 
another Moore touchdown run. The Colonels’ stretched their lead to 33-7. 
 
After running three unsuccessful plays, Ryle knew it was running out of time to close the gap. But their fake punt failed, giving Dixie great field position with just under four minutes remaining in the quarter.
 
Taking advantage of Ryle’s failed fourth down conversion, Moore lofted a third down pass 30 yards and Faeth came down with the jump ball, adding to the Colonels’ lead.
 
Due in large part to Dixie’s conservative run-first play calling of the final quarter, Ryle was able to put some points on the board. Beginning their drive with solid field position, the Raiders’ eventually found the end zone with a two-yard touchdown run by senior running back Ryan Woolf. The Colonels led 40-14.
 
With over seven minutes remaining in their season, the Raiders recovered their onside kick. After Rytlewski was sacked twice, combined with a minimal third down gain, Ryle was called for a false start penalty. On fourth down, the Raiders tried a hook-and-ladder but fell way short of first down yardage.
 
Taking over with under five minutes left, Dixie found the end zone one final time on the night, making the score 46-14.
 
On the ensuing and final drive of the evening and aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty after a late hit out-of-bounds on the kickoff, Rytlewski kept the ball for the Raiders’ final score, capping the night, 46-21.
 
Will the Colonels get past their “block” Simon Kenton? Next week we’ll find out.
 
-Jason Finnell
 
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
 
Covington Catholic traveled to Johnson Central and picked up a big win, 19-7. The Golden Eagles had been undefeated prior to the Colonels ending their season. Now, Cov Cath advances to play Highlands. The Bluebirds roughed up Ashland Blazer, 30-15, on Friday night. When Highlands and Cov Cath met on September 26, the Bluebirds destroyed the Colonels, 42-7. These teams compete in Class 4A.
 
Simon Kenton advanced to play rival Dixie after taking care of Lafayette, 35-21. They compete in Class 6A.
 
Bellevue saw its season end at the hands of Frankfort, 50-12. The Tigers wrap up a solid season at 7-5. Beechwood now carries the flag for Northern Kentucky alone in Class 1A. The Tigers from Ft. Mitchell had no trouble with Paris, winning Friday night, 51-0.
 
Cooper put up a lopsided victory over Franklin Co., 27-6 in Class 5A.
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