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NKY High School Football: What Happened in First Round of the Playoffs

Mixed results for Northern Kentucky teams as the high school football playoffs got underway Friday night.

Of the region's five Class 1A teams, four saw their seasons come to an end, including Bishop Brossart, which had gotten off to a red hot start this year. Only surging Beechwood survived, thrashing Eminence, 62-0. Bellevue, Dayton, and Ludlow, which also had a solid season, were eliminated.

Class 2A saw better results for local teams. Newport Catholic, Lloyd, Holy Cross, and Walton-Verona all advanced, though the latter did so at the expense of struggling Newport.

There was excitement in Class 4A as the Scott Eagles scored their first playoff victory in more than a dozen years, and heartache as the Holmes Bulldogs saw their season end at Johnson Central.

The larger schools also put on a show.

Dixie surprised Montgomery Co. in Class 5A action where Highlands and Covington Catholic also rolled.

In Class 6A, Conner held off a strong fight from Campbell Co. and Ryle put an end to a winless season for Boone Co. Simon Kenton and Cooper manhandled a pair of teams from Louisville.

Here's what happened:

Scott 33, Rowan Co. 26

Scott played host to Rowan County in a game that came with much anticipation for the Eagle faithful. It was the first time in school history they had hosted a playoff game. Not only have they never hosted a playoff game, but they haven't won one since 2002. However, that would change Friday night as Scott won in exciting fashion by the score of 33-26.

Both defenses came out of the gate playing strong. The first score of the game came at the 7:52 mark of the second quarter on a trick play from Rowan County. It was a 20-yard triple reverse pass from tight end Blake Chapman to fellow tight end Dalton Martin. With that score, Rowan County went up, 7-0.

Scott answered on the first play of the following drive with an explosive 65-yard touchdown run from sophomore wide receiver Nelson Perrin. The extra point was blocked, making the score 7-6 in favor Rowan County with 7:39 remaining in the second quarter.

Rowan County responded to that score with a long, methodical seven minute drive behind the legs of senior fullback Jeffery Masters. He carried the ball eleven times for 44-yards on the drive, and eventually punched it from 1-yard out with 28 seconds left in the first half. Thanks to that score, Rowan County carried a 14-6 lead going into halftime.

Scott had the ball to start the second half, and they got the scoring going in what would be an exciting half of football. On the fourth play of the drive, quarterback Danny Fitzgerald flew past the Rowan County defense for a 41-yard touchdown run. After a failed two-point conversion, the score was 14-12 in Rowan County’s favor with 10:54 to go in the third quarter.

Rowan County got the ball back hoping to answer with a score of their own. It appeared that was going to be the case after a strong start to the drive, but the Scott defense came up with a huge fumble recovery instead. The fumble was recovered by senior defensive back, Skyler Hale.

With the ball at the Rowan County 40-yard line, Scott had a golden opportunity to take the lead. They would do just that thanks to a 3-yard run from Danny Fitzgerald. After another missed extra point, Scott took an 18-14 lead with 3:29 left in the third quarter. 

Rowan County would answer on the ensuing drive with a shifty 14-yard touchdown run from quarterback Devin Helvey. Rowan County would miss the extra-point, making the score 20-18 in their favor.

On the ensuing drive, Rowan County nose guard Kyle Fannin took the life out of the Scott crowd by intercepting a screen pass and returning it for 63-yards all the way to the Scott 7-yard line. Rowan County would score a few plays later on a 1-yard run from Jeffery Masters. After a crucial missed extra-point, Rowan County had a 26-18 lead with 7:45 left in the game.

Scott was down, but not out. Quarterback Danny Fitzgerald struggled to throw the ball most of the evening. However, on a third and long with six minutes left in the game, he fired a strike down the middle of the field to Nelson Perrin for a 45-yard touchdown play that very well may have saved the season for the Scott Eagles. Thanks to a successful two-point conversion from Perrin himself, the score was tied, 26-26 with 6:08 left in the game.

Rowan County had six minutes to march the ball down the field and win the game. After a few first downs, the Scott faithful started getting a little bit nervous. However, their nerves were eased when Scott came up with a huge stop on 4th and 1 with 2:32 left in the game. A few plays later, Nelson Perrin ran it in from 25-yards out to give Scott a 33-26 lead with just 45-seconds left on the clock. That would end up being the final score as Scott celebrated their first playoff win in more than a dozen years.

Head Coach Dan Woolley was very proud of his team for accomplishing this feat. “I’m just proud of the way they kept fighting. They’ve never been in this situation before, and they had had to get over the hump. They got over the hump,” said Woolley. Scott (9-2) now turns their focus toward a meeting with Ashland Blazer (9-2) in a Class 4A second round matchup next Friday in Taylor Mill.

-Patrick Henke


Kentucky Country Day 21, Ludlow 14

On a night of many blowouts throughout the region, the Ludlow Panthers had to fight tooth and nail in their Class 1A playoff game against visiting Kentucky Country Day, but fell a touchdown short in the end, and lost in the first round, 21-14.

It came down to the final minutes of the game with Ludlow trailing by seven and taking over the ball inside their own five-yard line with under four minutes left to play. Things really looked dicey for the Panthers when they were called for an unsportsmanlike penalty after a short gain on a run that made it 2nd and 20 with practically the whole field to go. Ludlow sophomore quarterback Justin Blackburn, though, made up that yardage with an 18-yard scamper on the next play that turned into a first down and kept the drive alive. From that point, the Panthers looked to go to the air and tossed a number of long passes downfield only to see them fall to the turf. Where they had success on the drive was throwing to wide out Michael Camarena along the sideline where he was able to pick up two first downs to keep his team in the game.

The Panthers picked up three first downs to move the ball to midfield with under two minutes left, but from there, it appeared that desperation set in as Blackburn continued to fire the ball on the run to his streaking wide receivers, but unable to complete any of the passes thrown. After failing on fourth down, KCD took the ball back over, converted a first down and bled the clock to zero.

It was a game of streaks as KCD went up early 13-0 on their first two possessions thanks to a play that hit for big gainers all night for the Bearcats. Rarely ever sending receivers out wide, KCD came out in tight power formations out of the pistol all night. The bread-and-butter play for the Bearcats was a pitch sweep out of these formations that allowed tailback Mitchell Collins to read his blockers in the flats, find the seam to cut up field and race to the end zone. He had touchdown runs of 45, 44 and 54 yards on essentially the same play to the left side.

Other than those three moments, the Panthers defense played tough and forced a good amount of punts, especially in the second half. Once the Bearcats took their early lead, Ludlow made it up with scores through the air that were set up by the run.

Blackburn is not the biggest (5’9’’, 160 lbs.) or fastest kid, but his toughness is hard to overstate. On offense, he took a punishment as he took on defenders on the outside and put his head down and plowed on the inside. On defense, he stuck his nose in there and made handfuls of solid tackles near the line of scrimmage. KCD has a rugged linebacker corps that seek out the ball carrier and lay the lumber when they tackle. Blackburn took many, many big hits on the evening, but got up every time. On multiple occasions, he almost single-handedly dug his team out of long-yardage holes, creating manageable down-and-distance situations to convert subsequent first downs. Complimenting Blackburn in the run game was running back Jeremiah Martin and the two kept the Bearcat defense honest enough to draw in the safeties into the box.

Once that became the case, Blackburn looked deep and gave his receivers the chance to beat the secondary on go routes. In the second quarter and down 13-7, Blackburn found Kalib Mitchell in the end zone for 33 yards. Mitchell made a terrific catch on the play, leaping over his defender and pulling the ball in with both hands. He’d been clamoring for the ball earlier in the game and backed it up with a great play when he got the chance. The score gave the Panthers a 14-13 halftime lead and a huge boost of confidence heading into the locker room.

The third quarter became a slug match, with both teams trading punts throughout. The Ludlow defense looked to have settled in nicely and if there was a momentum advantage during the stretch, perhaps the Panthers had the edge, but not by much.

Then, at the very start of the final quarter and on 3rd and long, Collins found familiar daylight on the killer sweep play they had perfected, zoomed 54 yards to the house and shifted the score and entire dynamic of the game. Collins followed the long run with a catch on the two-point conversion that sweetened their position late in the contest.

It then looked like the sweep got them again later in the quarter, but a holding call gave Ludlow another gasp with under five minutes left, wiping out a touchdown. It forced KCD to punt around midfield. On the punt, the ball probably only traveled 15 yards in the air, and it was a low line drive, but the bounce was a perfect one as the ball flirted but avoided the sideline all the way down to the five-yard line, pinning the Panthers deep.

Camarena converted a third down with a quick out to the sideline. Blackburn then picked up another first down by running up the middle and taking another shot, but fell forward enough to gain the yardage needed. The next first down came from a short Martin run, but that would be the last positive thing to happen to the Panthers on the season. A sequence of incompletions led to a turnover-on-downs, and when KCD picked up a first down on the ensuing possession, Ludlow was left without timeouts and the game was over.

Ludlow finishes a fine season at 6-5, and with Blackburn returning for two more seasons, the future of Panthers football looks to be in good hands.

-Bryan Burke


Covington Catholic 47, Anderson Co. 21

Covington Catholic overcame a sluggish first half at “home” vs. Anderson County at Dixie Heights’ Rice Mountjoy Stadium Friday night, eventually running away from the Bearcats, 47-21, in an opening round Class 5A match-up.

Junior running back Anthony Best found the end zone with a 7-yard run up the middle for the first of two scores on the evening and a 7-0 Colonels’ lead three minutes in. On its ensuing drive, Anderson Co. was unable to take advantage of a fortuitous bounce on its first play from scrimmage: A fumbled exchange between sophomore quarterback Gunner Gillis and running back Tyler Peters was picked up by the back, the ball bouncing back to him, and Peters ran to the Cov Cath 37. But the Bearcats’ could not advance any further as Gillis was sacked on fourth-and-11, turning the ball over on downs.

After a Colonels punt on its next possession, Anderson Co. ran a halfback pass play to perfection; catching his pass in the flat, Peters then completed a long ball to junior receiver John Paul Garmon for 40 yards. A few plays later on fourth down, Gillis rolled right and found Peters in the back of the end zone for a Bearcats touchdown and a 7-7 score in the waning minutes of the first quarter.

Despite an unsportsmanlike penalty against Cov Cath on its next drive that placed the ball deeper in Colonels territory, the Bearcats moved backwards, ultimately punting back on its own side of the field after Gillis threw the ball backwards as he was being sacked on third down, losing substantial yardage. 

After several big runs featuring Best, Cov Cath found the end zone for the second time shortly before the half, courtesy of a 2-yard quarterback sneak by sophomore AJ Mayer. The extra point missed wide right, and the Colonels led 13-7 at the break.

Following an Anderson Co. punt on its initial possession of the third quarter, Cov Cath began to find momentum. Best found the end zone for his second touchdown of the night and a 19-7 lead on a drive the Colonels began at the Bearcats’ 28 because of a short punt. Nearly two minutes later – again beginning in Anderson Co. territory because of a short punt – Mayer ran through the ride side on third down 31 yards for a Colonels’ touchdown and a 26-7 lead.

On its next possession, the Bearcats’ found momentum with a 20-yard pass play to Peters, but could not get any further. On second down, Cov Cath’s Kameron Butler sacked Gillis, followed by Josh Galvin coming up with a sack of his own on third. “Our d-line as a whole unit played really well, they did some good things, so that was good to see,” Colonels Head Coach Eddie Eviston said. “Galvin got in there and made some noise right away so that was good to see, as well,” he added. 

But the Bearcats struck back near the end of the quarter, taking advantage of a fumbled punt by Cov Cath punt returner Ryan McGinness on his own 20. Despite its inability to move the ball on three consecutive plays, Gillis found Garmon in the back of the end zone for a touchdown in which the junior made an athletic play keeping possession of the ball and one foot in bounds despite tight coverage. At the conclusion of the third, Cov Cath held on to its lead, 33-14.

Nearly a minute into the final quarter, freshman running back Casey McGinness broke through the left side, outrunning Bearcats’ defenders 45 yards into the end zone and a 40-14 lead. With 5:26 remaining, Anderson Co. scored for the third and final time of the evening, taking advantage of two unsportsmanlike penalties whistled against the Colonels on the drive. Ryan Martin took the handoff inside the 10 and outraced Cov Cath defenders to the pylon for a 40-21 score. 

Originally lined up to punt on its last drive of the game on fourth down, Cov Cath was the beneficiary of the Bearcats lining up offsides, giving the Colonels fourth down and a yard. After converting the down, freshman back McGinness ran 47 yards into the end zone to cap the scoring. 

With the 47-21 victory, Cov Cath (4-7) travels to Madison Southern (5-5) next Friday at 7:30. Anderson Co. wraps up its season, 5-6.

-Jason Finnell


Newport Central Catholic 38, Gallatin Co. 7

In an opening round match-up in Class 2A, New Cath started hot and never looked back.

Gallatin Co. won the opening toss and opted to receive, resulting in a quick three-and-out and a blocked punt that the Thoroughbreds returned for a touchdown. It was all New Cath from there.

The Wildcats' second drive ended in a fumble recovered by the host New Cath on the Gallatin 5-yard line. It took one more play before the 'Breds were on the board again. New Cath led 14-0 before three minutes had elapsed.

And the 'Breds weren't finished, scoring on its third drive and pushing the lead to 21-0 in the first quarter. The lead would swell to 31-0 by halftime.

New Cath has won four of its last five games and is now 6-5 on the year. The 'Breds host Holy Cross (6-5) next week in round two.

-Brian Frey



Class 1A

Raceland 22, Bishop Brossart 14 What started as a storybook season for the Mustangs ended abruptly in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs as Raceland traveled to Alexandria from Greenup Co. and left with a 22-14 victory. Brossart had started the season 7-0 and entered the post-season at 9-1, but Raceland (7-4) surprised the Mustangs with their second loss of the year. It will be Raceland who travels to face Paintsville in next week's second round.

Beechwood 62, Eminence 0 The Tigers rolled into the post-season on a 6-game winning streak with the smallest margin of victory being 17. Beechwood (10-1) ran up the scoreboard on Eminence (4-7) and will now host Frankfort next week in Ft. Mitchell.

Frankfort 49, Bellevue 8 The Bellevue Tigers could not compete in the state capital on Friday night and saw their season end at 3-8. Frankfort (3-8) visits Beechwood next week.

Louisville Holy Cross 42, Dayton 0 It was a rough trip to Louisville for the Greendevils who saw their season end on Friday night. Dayton finished the year with an 8-game losing streak and a 1-10 record. 

Class 2A

Holy Cross 54, Owen Co. 28 The Indians are gaining steam when it counts, winning three of their last four games. Holy Cross (6-5) easily took care of Owen Co. (6-5) on Friday and has a date at Newport Catholic next week.

Lloyd 41, Carroll Co. 0 The Juggernauts picked up their third straight win, knocking out Carroll Co. easily in Erlanger on Friday. Lloyd (8-3) travels to Walton-Verona (6-5) next week.

Walton-Verona 45, Newport 6 The Bearcats are hot at the right time, winning five of their last six games. Walton (6-5) will host a tough Lloyd squad next week. Newport sees its difficult season end at 1-10.

Class 4A

Johnson Central 41, Holmes 0 It was a long trip to Paintsville for the Holmes Bulldogs who were walloped by the Golden Eagles, a tough team coming off its first loss of the year. Johnson Central (9-1) is one of the top teams in the class. Holmes ends its season at 4-7.

Class 5A

Highlands 50, Woodford Co. 14 The Bluebirds shocked the region this season when they started at 1-5 but Highlands has won five straight to improve to 6-5 after knocking off Woodford Co. (3-8) in Ft. Thomas. Next up for Highlands: the Dixie Colonels, a team the Bluebirds manhandled, 42-7, back on October 9.

Dixie Heights 21, Montgomery Co. 17 The Colonels shocked Montgomery Co. (7-4) on the road Friday night, picking up their third win of the season. Dixie (3-8) faces Highlands next week in Ft. Thomas.

Class 6A

Simon Kenton 48, Louisville Butler 8 The Pioneers stayed perfect on Friday night, having no trouble with visiting Butler (2-9). Next week, Simon Kenton (11-0) welcomes Ryle (9-2) back to Independence where the Pioneers rolled, 28-7, on October 23.

Conner 14, Campbell Co. 12 In a defensive battle, the Cougars were able to hold off a Campbell Co. team that had won just one game on the season. The Camels (1-10) nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the night on their home field, but Conner (8-3) survived the scare and advances to face Cooper (9-2) next week.

Cooper 40, Louisville Seneca 0 The Redhawks had not won a game all year and Cooper was not going to let them start in the first round in Union on Friday night. The Jaguars put Seneca (0-11) away early and improved to 9-2 on the year and will now await Conner in next week's second round.

Ryle 49, Boone Co. 14 The Raiders put an end to Boone Co.'s winless season on Friday. The Rebels finish the year at 0-11 and Ryle (9-2) prepares for a rematch with Simon Kenton (11-0) next week in Independence.

-Michael Monks

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