'Breds Fall to DeSales in State Finals for Second Straight Year
Newport Central Catholic made the trip to Bowling Green for the Class 2A Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl, but they forgot to take their offense with them. From the kickoff, the Thoroughbreds could generate absolutely nothing in terms of moving the ball down field as DeSales shut them out 26-0 in the state championship game.
The game started on the right foot for the Breds as DeSales running back Brian Pirtle fumbled on the second play of the game setting up NewCath in DeSales territory. In what would become the night's theme, though, NCC was unable to gain a first down and squandered the scoring chance after the turnover.
Once the Colts got the ball back, they drove 90 yards on 12 plays, capped off by a three-yard run by Frankie Tharp to give DeSales a 6-0 early lead which would prove all the points they would need on the evening. After another stalled NCC drive, the Colts scored on a 35-yard pass to Austin Craig on a play-action roll out bootleg pass, extending their lead to 13-0.
Still in the first quarter and facing a growing deficit, the Breds badly needed positive things to happen on offense which simply did not happen. Instead, NewCath quarterback Pat Henschen tried throwing a bubble screen to the flats which was bobbled, tipped and eventually intercepted by Jacob Nord who ended up with a new state-finals record of three picks in the game. The Breds defended the short field well, but still had to concede three more points, making the score 16-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was more of the same as the NewCath offensive line was beaten off the ball time and again, disrupting Jacob Smith and the running game, and forcing Henschen into more turnovers and sacks. Henschen was intercepted again on another tipped screen pass. DeSales converted that turnover into seven more points when quarterback Austin Johnson scampered in from three yards out.
It wouldn't be until the last three minutes of the half before NCC achieved their first first-down and only gained four in the entire game. By halftime, they racked up 25 yards and looked unable to get anything going on offense. Both teams went to their respective locker rooms with the score 23-0.
The DeSales defense averaged just over seven points a game on the season. In the end, New Cath finished with just 50 total yards on 50 offensive plays from scrimmage. NCC running back Jacob Smith finished with 18 yards on the ground after a season where he fell just 10 yards short of a 1,500 yard season.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photo: Newport Central Catholic football team/RCN file