NKY Football: Holmes Beats Holy Cross; Scott Over Rowan; Conner Wins; Full Scoreboard
The River City News's coverage of Northern Kentucky high school football this week includes a column from Dan Weber who was at the Conner-Boone Co. game, photos from RCN photographer Brian Frey who was at the Holy Cross-Holmes game, and a game report from Jason Finnell who was at the Rowan Co.-Scott game. The full regional scoreboard is below.
CONNER 34, BOONE CO. 7
Dan Weber writes a sports column for The River City News. Contact him at email@example.com.
Uh oh! Is this how upsets happen?
Rivalry game. Double homecoming, one for last year lost to Covid, another for this year.
A just-under capacity crowd and a cheerleading corps numbering two dozen all fired up at Boone County High School's Owen Hauck Stadium as their homestanding Rebels took an early 7-0 lead in Florence over their Hebron neighbors from Conner on the brand new Irv Goode Field turf.
And we haven't even mentioned Shaun Alexander, who, the last time we covered a game here, was lining up in Boone's Columbia Blue for his first varsity game. Or Rice Mountjoy (how great is that name?), the legendary Centre College alum and Kentucky high school coach who founded Boone County football way back in 1954.
Now the Rebels, trying to come back from a dismal decade, are coached by alum Bryson Warner, who was an outstanding linebacker for Hauck back in the early 1990's. He's working hard to get his old team back in the game, a game that seemed to have past the Rebels by in recent years.
But not on the game's first scoring drive, an eight-play, 80-yard work of art for the Rebels that Jeremiah Williams finished off with a 17-yard high-stepping blast for an early 7-0 lead as the Boone band played their "Hail to the Victors" fight song.
That was the last time we heard it as it was all Conner the rest of the way. And even though Conner didn't come along as a school until 1970, it's not like the Cougars don't have some tradition themselves.
Bob Lewis, one of the all-time top Greater Cincinnati high school coaches for his career at Wyoming High, retired there, came across the river and put basketball school Conner on the map in football winning a state title in Class 3A in 1983.
There's one other element in this rivalry. Conner coach James Trosper, like Warner, was an outstanding linebacker for Hauck in the late 1980s at Boone. Sure, county schools like Ryle and Cooper have come along since then. So this is no longer the only rivalry going.
But this game in this place means a great deal for Trosper. "It most certainly does," he said, "I played for Owen."
And if he had his druthers, "I like starting fast," Trosper said of the 7-0 first quarter deficit. But credit the "improved" Rebels, now 3-3, after their first district game.
As for his team, "I'm proud of you guys in that second half," he told them. "We're scary good when we hit it like that."
"Scary good" was the best way to describe the quarterback-running back pairing of Alex Castrucci and Alijah Thompson as they ran the read option allowing Castrucci to put the ball into Thompson's gut and either leave it there or pull it back, keep it himself and take off flying.
No surprise, said Thompson, of the comeback that put up 34 straight points. "I know this team," the junior said. And they know him after early runs of 16, 17, and 16 yards before a two-yard TD blast to tie the game on the next possession.
Then Castrucci hit Cody Crawford down the right sideline as he ran it in through contact from the 18 for a 13-7 edge after the PAT was blocked.
Thompson's 28-yard run highlighted the first drive after intermission that concuded with a Castrucci TD keep from four yards out. But then came the game's best play as Castrucci rode the ball into Thompson going right -- along with at least nine Boone defenders following suit -- before Castrucci pulled it back with a wide open field ahead of him.
"That's the best part of it," Alex said of the advantage of having Thompson draw so much attention to him. "You love to see that . . . I'm saying 'Beat it, you gotta' go,' " to himself when all he had to do was beat the two guys left the 44 yards to the goal line. Which he did.
“That’s why I like Alijah back there," Castrucci said. "He’s such a threat in the backfield. When you start giving him the ball, he gets five, six yards a carry. They start keying on him, and that opens up opportunities for other guys in the offense.”
The next time, running a speed option, Castrucci held on to the ball until the last second before pitching it to Thompson as he flew through traffic and tacklers the final 25 yards to make it 34-7.
But Thompson gave Castrucci a final chance to get on him a bit when, from his defensive back position, Thompson had an opportunity on a Boone County fumble that he scooped up at the Conner 17. He could have taken it all the way back. He should have, he said, should have made one more cut and not let the first tackler take him down after a mere 41 yards.
Now 4-2 (1-0 District), the Cougars head to Highlands next week before home games against Cooper and Covington Catholic, who played to a four-overtime thriller Friday with CovCath surviving, to finish out play in the state's most competitive district.
“Top to bottom, no doubt,” Trosper said, it is. “There are only four that make it (to the playoffs). If you lose that first one, you’re battling to get through it. You got to get that first one. If you don’t, you’re fighting an uphill battle.”
In this game, the Cougars were pretty much running downhill, racking up a bit more than 300 yards unofficially on the ground behind their 1-2 punch with Thompson going for more then 180 yards and Castrucci for more than 120.
SCOTT 17, ROWAN CO. 7
“The punt is the most important play in football.”
If you are an avid football fan, you may know Jim Tressel is credited with this statement, but it was applicable to the Scott Eagles on Friday evening vs. Rowan County. The Vikings hung around until Eagles punter Luke Iden sent the football skyward after a deflating end to a possession in which Cam Patterson dropped a would-be first down throw from senior quarterback Gus Howlett. Instead, Iden’s booming kick sailed 62 yards and pinned Rowan inside their own 20-yard line.
“That leg is a weapon,” Scott Head Coach Eric Turner said. He was a force for us last year but this year he’s improved it that much more. When you can kick it into the end zone, and it makes people go 80 yards. And then his punts, they flip the field for us. He did it twice tonight and it was just huge, just as good as getting a defensive stop.”
Scott’s opening possession of the game drained several minutes off the clock and the Eagles appeared destined to score first, however, were stopped short of the end zone by a Vikings defense that had only given up nine points in its win last week vs. Greenup County. “We knew it was going to be a physical game and it was,” Turner added. Rowan Co. was successful in holding the Eagles scoreless for the opening quarter, but it was unable to put a scoring drive together, due in large part to the right foot of Iden pinning them deep in their own territory.
To begin the second, Rowan Co. quarterback Zach Menard was sacked on two consecutive plays, losing 15 and five yards, respectively, and the Vikings punted near the shadow of its own end zone. Taking advantage of good field position, Eagles returner Dylan Giffen fielded the ball and zigzagged his way to the Vikings 28-yard line. Scott was unable to overcome a costly holding penalty on its first play from scrimmage when Howlett found running room around the left side, but the play was negated. After he picked up two yards, two passes fell to the turf and the Eagles settled for a 42-yard field goal from Iden. With 8:38 remaining, the Eagles led 3-0, but it would not last. On first-and-10 from its own 20, Vikings senior running back Cole Wallace took a handoff around the right side for 44 yards. Fellow back Rocky Miller’s run put Rowan inside the five, then Wallace’s name was called again, this time taking a direct snap out of the wildcat formation for a three-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead. But Rowan’s advantage was short-lived as Howlett brought the Eagles back, breaking through the middle of the Vikings defense for a long run, finally being brought down at the 16. Several plays later, it was Howlett again to the two, but a false start penalty on the ensuing play set Scott back five yards. Then, Bennie Hill’s seven-yard TD reception out of the backfield put the Eagles back in front, 10-7, into the extended Homecoming night halftime in Taylor Mill.
The majority of the third quarter ticked by without any scoring but the frustration was building within the Vikings. Hill’s 22-yard gain near the end of the quarter was punctuated by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Rowan, as he was tackled late out of bounds on the Eagles sideline, giving his team a new set of downs at the Vikings 26-yard line. Then three consecutive quarterback keepers from Howlett produced all the points Scott would need to put away their district opponents. “(Howlett) He’s using his legs a lot more this year and he made some great reads tonight…once we get his legs and his arm there, we’re going to be a fun offense,” Turner said. On first-and-goal at the one, the senior easily scored around the left side of the pile for a 17-7 Eagles advantage as the final quarter began. The Vikings battled back, deciding to run Miller and Wallace out of the wildcat in hopes of throwing Scott off balance and it worked to an extent. However, two costly lost fumbles inside the seven-minute mark shut down any hope of Rowan mounting a comeback.
Scott (4-2) looks to build off its first win in district play as it travels south to Harrison County to meet the 2-4 Thoroughbreds. Rowan Co. looks to bounce back at home vs. Holmes.
NKY REGIONAL SCOREBOARD
Covington Catholic 31 (4OT)
It took multiple overtimes for the Colonels to hold off their visitors from Union. Cov Cath evened up its record at 3-3 ahead of next week's visit from Boone Co. Cooper falls to 3-2 and visits Madison (In.) next week.
Holy Cross 28
The Bulldogs ran up the scoreboard in this crosstown rivalry game. See photos from this game in the slideshow below. Holmes is now 4-1 after winning three consecutive games. The Bulldogs travel to Rowan Co. next week. The Indians have lost six straight games to fall to 1-6 on the year. Holy Cross has next week off but it won't get any easier on Oct. 8 when the Indians return to the field at Beechwood.
Dixie Heights 28
Dixie handed the Bluebirds their third straight defeat. The Colonels (3-2) welcome Beechwood next week. Highlands (3-3) is back in Fort Thomas next week for a date with Conner.
Bishop Brossart 41
The Mustangs are still perfect at 6-0 on the year after easily dispatching their visitors from Ludlow. Next week, Brossart welcomes Nicholas Co. to Alexandria. Ludlow will hope to snap its 4-game losing streak with a visit from Mason Co. next week.
Gallatin Co. 8
The Bearcats snapped a two-game skid to even up their record at 3-3 on the year. Walton welcomes Carroll Co. next week.
Campbell Co. 14
George Rogers Clark 27
The Camels' woes continue on the road. Campbell Co. is now 1-5 on the year and has next week off before an Oct. 8 game at home against Ryle.
Simon Kenton 56
Connersville (In.) 20
The Pioneers had to travel to Indiana to find their first win of the season. Simon Kenton (1-4) will be at Corbin next week.
The Greendevils are now 3-3 on the season and will have next week off before their Oct. 8 rivalry game against Bellevue.
Scoreboard compiled by Michael Monks