NKY Football: Here's What Happened In Final Week of Regular Season
In what has been a fascinating and exciting season of Northern Kentucky high school football, the final week before the post-season begins offered another set of thrilling match-ups.
Simon Kenton remained perfect, holding off a surging Scott team... Holy Cross flexed some late-season muscles at Bellevue... Highlands continues to pick up steam in a lackluster season for the Bluebirds... Covington Catholic went to Scott County and took it on the chin...
Here's a look at what happened:
Simon Kenton 44, Scott 13
Despite losing standout senior running back Dillon Powell late in the first quarter to a knee injury, Simon Kenton had no trouble with Scott, defeating the Eagles 44-13, Friday night in Taylor Mill.
The Pioneers got off to a fast start on its initial possession, completing a 40-yard double-reverse pass to junior receiver Luke Vance, putting it deep in Scott territory one minute into the game. A few plays later, Powell outraced Scott defenders around the left side 20 yards for a touchdown and an 8-0 lead after a successful two-point conversion pass to junior receiver Logan Kreidenweis. But they were not done yet. Following a Scott punt and a failed fourth down attempt by the Pioneers, Simon Kenton took advantage of a fumble by junior Ryan Muck, the ball popping up in the air after he was hit hard by Pioneer defenders on its first play of the drive. After Powell found the end zone for the second time from 23 yards out in the opening quarter, the Pioneers’ led 14-0.
Still struggling to gain much momentum near the end of the quarter, Scott was forced to punt once again. On first-and-10 from its own 44, Powell raced through the Scott defensive line down to the 10-yard line but was horse-collared on the play, injuring his knee. Fortunately for Simon Kenton, the injury did not appear to be serious and was kept out of the rest of the game for precautionary reasons, Head Coach Jeff Marksberry said. “We didn’t want to take any risks. What’s important is coming up, so didn’t want to take any risks.” But for the Pioneers, its depth at the position kept it going for the rest of the game with sophomore running back Will Parks stepping in and picking up where Powell left off. With Parks’ short touchdown run, Simon Kenton found itself ahead by three scores, 21-0 at the conclusion of the first. “He (Parks) did a heck of a job. We’re really proud of him,” the Coach said.
The Eagles were able to briefly stop the Pioneers’ scoring, picking off Simon Kenton junior quarterback Cam Racke’s pass in the end zone, preventing another score, but were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt. Racke redeemed himself on his team's next possession, calling his own number from 27 yards out and a 28-0 lead. Parks added another score right before the half, his second of the night, for a 35-0 lead at the break.
Already banged up coming into the game, Scott lost standout kick returner Nelson Perrin, knocked out on the opening kickoff of the third. Following a Simon Kenton punt – its first of the game – Scott finally found the end zone with less than six minutes to go in the quarter. Senior running back Deondre Pleasant broke several tackles down the right sideline, beating Pioneer defenders over the goal line and a 35-7 score. But on its next possession, Parks methodically led his team down the field with several runs, culminating with a one-yard touchdown pass from Racke to Kreidenweis and a 41-7 lead going into the final quarter.
With under a minute left, Scott found the end zone to cap the scoring on the night, courtesy of a short touchdown run by senior Cody Shultz and a 44-13 final. Each team moves on to the first round of the playoffs next Friday, with Scott (8-2) facing Rowan County at home and Simon Kenton (10-0) up against (Louisville) Butler in Independence. Butler is a team it’s familiar with, Marksberry said. “We played them a couple years ago in the third round in the regional finals. We know they’ll be athletic; they’ve played a really tough schedule. They’re 2-8 but they’ve played Male, they’ve played St. X, they’ve played (Pleasure Ridge Park.) They have played a really hard schedule so they will be prepared,” he said.
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Beechwood 31, Newport Central Catholic 14
Two district champions squared off in a non-district showdown on Friday, when Beechwood came away with a decisive home victory over Newport Central Catholic, 31-14.
The game between the Class 1A Beechwood and Class 2A New Cath has become a traditional final regular season game for the two schools, but it has been the Tigers that have proven the more physically tough team the last seasons.
Beechwood's front line pushed around the New Cath defensive interior enough to regularly gain positive yardage on the ground which kept the Tigers on schedule and forced the Thoroughbreds to crowd the box on defense. With the Tigers showing power formations of full backs and double tight ends, New Cath chose to allow senior Brett Slusher to be isolated against only a single defender.
This proved problematic for the 'Breds.
Slusher is a tough football player. He plays wide receiver, sometimes running back. He's a kind of safety/linebacker hybrid on defense and he also punts. In this game he had three touchdown catches—all in the first half—two fumble recoveries and punt inside the 10-yard line in a key moment of the game.
“He's just special because of how talented he is and because of how smart of a football player he is,” said Beechwood head coach Noel Rash after the game.
The Tiger offense established itself right away, gaining five first downs on their opening drive and capping it off with a touchdown on an improvised scramble and toss from Kyle Feiger to Slusher to take the immediate lead.
They scored again on their next drive when a deep vertical pass down the sidelines to Slusher put the Tigers in the red zone, and then later scoring on a quick out to the pylon to Slusher for the second time.
New Cath's offesnse already felt the pressure having punted twice only to see the Tigers strike quickly and take a two-score lead, but their star running back, senior Jacob Smith took the ball, headed left, broke a tackle around the legs and showed tremendous open field speed to the house for a 61-yard touchdown run.
“That was exactly the play that we as a staff thought would get us was, that lead stretch sweep play. (Smith) is a great player himself, and great players find a way and he found a way,” Rash said.
Slusher was not to be outdone.
The 'Breds left him alone out in the flats, so Fieger hit him right away on a quick pass to see what he could do with it. Slusher proceeded to truck his man to the ground, run down the sidelines, avoid an ankle tackle near midfield and complete the 80-yard score for his third of the game.
“The only reason I was in the game offensively was because the offensive line was driving them and making them look heavy on the run and that got me open opportunities,” Slusher said.
The powerful offensive line is a team strength and Rash agreed that it is an emphasis of the program.
“It is because that is the only way you can win in November and December. You have to be great upfront because mother nature is going to you,” Nash said when asked if winning in the trenches is a point of emphasis for the program. “Now, having said that, out-slugging New Cath is not an easy task because they can slug it out with anybody and I thought we were able to accomplish that tonight, so I was extremely proud.”
New Cath had chances to get back in the game, but the little things like penalties, bad snaps and missed field goals began to pile up. The game was still close throughout the third quarter with New Cath only trailing 24-14 and getting the ball back, but Smith fumbled on a return from a squib kick that he very nearly broke before a Beechwood defender was able to strip the ball away without tackling him.
Still down 24-14 with under six minutes left, the Breds chances were completely dashed when the New Cath receiver had it stripped on a quick out that allowed Slusher to scoop the loose ball and return it all the way to three yard line. Beechwood would tack on another touchdown pass for insurance, giving Fieger four on the day and 28 on the year.
For Beechwood (9-1), it means they head into postseason play on a six-game winning streak.
“It's always good. Whatever happens this year you win or lose going into the last game of the playoffs, you just got to make sure it's a positive. Obviously it's much easier to make it a positive when you win, but we still have plenty of things to fix,” Rash said.
Last year, the Tigers were able to use the win over New Cath to propel them to the semifinals. On the other side, New Cath (5-5) is not going to lay down and quit on the year after making it all the way to the Class 2A state championship game last season following a Beechwood loss.
“New Cath is a good program and they're not going to give up, and that's exactly what we needed before we run into the playoffs,” Slusher said.
Beechwood hosts Eminence (4-6) in Class 1A playoff action next week. New Cath hosts Galltin Co. (4-6) in Class 2A.
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Holy Cross 46, Bellevue 13
Bellevue played host to Holy Cross which was hoping to rebound from a tough loss to Lloyd in the previous week. On top of losing the game, the Indians also lost their star player, Xavier Abernathy. The Holy Cross faithful was eager to find out how their team would perform with his absence.
Bellevue was hoping to rebound from a tough loss of their own against Ludlow. Unfortunately for Bellevue, it was Holy Cross who answered the bell with a convincing 46-13 victory over the Tigers.
Holy Cross got off to a fast start by forcing a three and out on defense. Following the three and out, the Indians proceeded to methodically drive the ball down the field before scoring on a 19-yard touchdown run by senior wide receiver, Damien Serrano. With that score, Holy Cross went up 7-0 with 8:05 remaining in the first quarter. Holy Cross never looked back from there.
After another defensive stop from Holy Cross, the Indians were once again able to move the ball down the field with relative ease. Thanks to a nice block from fullback Owen Finke, running back Derrick Barnes was able to punch it in from the 1-yard line for the Indians. After a missed extrapoint, Holy Cross went up, 13-0 with 3:01 left in the 1st quarter.
Bellevue was finally able to get things going on the ensuing drive, thanks mostly to some tough runs from running back Cameron Chase. However, the Tigers were eventually stopped and they had to settle for a field goal. Bellevue's Miguel Garcia converted the 25-yard field goal to cut the lead to 13-3 with 7:28 remaining in the second quarter.
After the score, Holy Cross was able to keep things rolling by once again driving the ball down the field with little resistance. Derrick Barnes was able to muscle it in from 1-yard out to cap off the 60-yard drive, It was Barnes’ second touchdown of the night, and it put the Indians up, 19-3 with 5:53 remaining in the half.
Although Holy Cross was playing at a high level, Bellevue was doing everything in their power to try to keep it close. The Tigers were able to get the ball down to the 12yard line, but were unable to get the ball into the endzone. However, they were able to convert a 30-yard field goal behind the leg of Miguel Garcia to cut the lead to 19-6 with 2:05 remaining in the first half. If they could stop Holy Cross before halftime then they would still have a shot in the second half.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Holy Cross just could not be stopped on offense. They marched the ball down the field and scored a touchdown with just 18 seconds left in the half. The touchdown was scored by Christian Current on a pass from quarterback Hamilton Scott from 4-yards out.
With that score, Holy Cross went up, 26-6 going into halftime. With Holy Cross getting the ball to start the second half, it wasn’t looking good for the Bellevue Tigers.
Holy Cross didn’t miss a beat to start the second half. They continued their dominance by driving the ball down the field and scoring on a 6-yard run from wide receiver Christian Current.
With that score, Holy Cross went up, 33-6 just three minutes into the 3rd quarter. Although the game was out of reach at this point, Bellevue showed some toughness by continuing to compete.
They were finally able to score a touchdown thanks to a quarterback sneak from Tucker Thomas. With that touchdown, the score was 33-14 in the Indians' favor.
Just when it looked like Bellevue was going to make things interesting, Holy Cross running back Derrick Barnes broke off an impressive 68-yard touchdown run in the final seconds of the third quarter. It was Barnes’ third touchdown in what was a monstrous game for the junior running back. He finished with 191 yards rushing on just 9 carries, which equates to an incredible 21.2 yards per carry. Holy Cross scored one more time just for good measure as they rolled to 46-13 victory.
It was a tough game for the Bellevue Tigers as they fell to 3-7 on the year. Regardless of the loss, they have a chance to regroup and redeem themselves in the playoffs. They start off by traveling to the state's capital next Friday to take on Frankfort (2-8) in Class 1A playoff action.
As for Holy Cross, they have to be feeling pretty good about how they performedon Friday despite not having their star player, Xavier Abernathy. Although they cruised to a win Friday night, Head Coach Bruce Kozerski was adamant about the fact that Abernathy is irreplaceable.
“We took a heck of a hit last week with the loss of Abernathy. He’s an integral part of what we do. We’re not going to replace a player of that caliber, but we stepped up in other ways,” said Kozerski. Holy Cross (5-5) now turns their focus to a playoff matchup against Owen County (6-4) next Friday in the Class 2A playoffs.
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Holmes 36, Newport 0
Holmes was able to rebound from last week's loss to Scott by dominating River City rival Newport. The Bulldogs handed the Wildcats their fifth straight loss.
Holmes took to the ground for much of the game and rushed to a 14-0 lead early. Newport answered with a deep drive into Bulldog territory only to see those efforts result in turnovers.
Holmes led 21-0 at the half.
The second half looked much like the first with lots of rushing plays by Holmes as the Bulldogs ran up their lead to 36-0.
Holmes in 4-6 on the year and will start its Class 4A post-season with a trip to a tough Johnson Central team, which suffered its first loss of the season on Friday, and stands at 8-1.
Newport (1-9) will travel to Walton-Verona (5-5) in the Class 2A playoffs.
Henry Clay (Lexington) 49, Campbell Co. 28 The tough season for the Camels continued Friday night as the team dropped to 1-9 on the year. Campbell Co. (1-9) will have its hands full next week in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs when Conner (7-3) visits Alexandria.
Ryle 31, Dixie 14 The Raiders continued their dominance this season, rolling over the Colonels. Ryle is 8-2 on the year and hosts a winless Boone Co. team in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. Earlier this year, Ryle beat the Rebels 52-7. For Dixie (2-8), the Class 5A playoffs begin with a trip to Montgomery Co. (7-3).
Conner 49, Mason Co. 12 The Cougars ended its two-game losing streak to finish the regular season at 7-3. Conner travels to Campbell Co. (1-9) for next week's first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Highlands 32, Boone Co. 6 The Bluebirds put their foot on the gas at the right time after a tough start to the season. Highlands has now evened its record at 5-5 and begins next week's Class 4A playoffs at home against Woodford Co. (3-7). For Boone (0-10), a forgettable season continues with the first round of the Class 6A playoffs at Ryle (8-2).
Bishop Brossart 39, Pendleton Co. 12 The Mustangs have had a terrific season and improved to 9-1 with Friday's win. Brossart hosts Raceland (6-4) in next week's Class 1A playoffs.
Carroll Co. 41, Dayton 0 The Greendevils' struggles continued Friday as Dayton fell to 1-9. The team travels to (Louisville) Holy Cross (5-5) next week to start the Class 1A playoffs.
Scott Co. 56, Covington Catholic 35 The Colonels were on the losing side of this shootout. Cov Cath falls to 3-7 on the year and starts the Class 5A playoffs next week at home against Anderson Co. (5-5).
Lloyd 50, Harrison Co. 37 Another shootout saw the Juggernauts come out on top. Lloyd is now 7-3 heading into next week's Class 2A playoffs at home against Carroll Co. (5-5).