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NKY Football: Dayton Defends Paddle; Holmes Tops Boyd; 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 Bellevue-Dayton game, photos from RCN photographer Brian Frey who was also at that game, and a game report from Jason Finnell who was at the Boyd Co.-Holmes game. The full regional scoreboard is below.


Dan Weber writes a sports column for The River City News. Contact him at

They know their history around here, in this place where Vine Street ends in a football field on a hillside in Dayton.

Ask anyone what the historic number for the night was - and we did - and they could tell you that it was 147. Without hesitating. That's how many times neighbors and rivals Dayton and Bellevue have lined up against one another in football.

No other teams in Kentucky have played that much. They did it by often playing twice in a season in a series that kicked off 95 years ago - in 1926. By that time, Dayton's O.W. Davis Field was 15 years old. If that sounds like a long time ago, well it is. When they built Davis Field in 1911, baseball's oldest venue - Fenway Park - would not open its gates for another year in 1912. And Wrigley Field? Two years after that in 1914.

There was even a Wrigley lookalike balcony a half-block up the hillside with a dozen fans on it and a professionally-made DAYTON banner the full width of the balcony.

"I love it," Dayton Coach Jesse Herbst said of this venue that has changed only one thing since he played here - there are green windscreens on the fence down the side opposite the stands. That's it. While so many facilities have put in colorful artificial turf and all sorts of upgrades, Davis Field delights in not changing a thing. Those 40 light bulbs on eight poles look the same as the last time you were here in . . . oh, 1985 or so.  

So as much as you want to focus on the matter at hand, "The Battle for the Paddle," you can't help yourself from basking in the history of the place where Bob "Twenty Grand" Davis and Bob Demoss started on their way to All-American college careers at Kentucky and Purdue. Or where John Wooden, then the nation's most famous college athlete at Purdue, was hired as football and basketball coach and AD back in 1933. He would turn down the football job. Not his sport, Wooden said.

But it was their sport as the Dayton Greendevil players and fans could not help themselves from jumping into a "row, row, row your boat" paddling formation right on that grass in the middle of the field to celebrate their 44-7 romp .

The "O'Fallon yard line," they call the 50-yard line here, symbolizing the street that divides these two river communities. If you live on the west side of O'Fallon, you're in Bellevue. If you're on the east, you're in Dayton. Green on one side, gold and black on the other.

Unless of course you were wearing one of the "Battle for the Paddle 2021" T-shirts that Herbst had made up with the green and gold paddle with each school's colors and logo that would work for fans of each team who started filling this place up to near its 3,000 capacity early.

The first person we saw wearing one of the shirts, Anthony Johnson, was stationed right at the goal line in his full-body wheelchair angled to give him a view of the entire field without having to move. A victim of a US Army humvee exploded by an IED while serving in Afghanistan in 2013 and totally disabled, Anthony had motored over from his home around the corner with his dad, Randy, to see his 16-year-old son, Mason, a sophomore backup quarterback/safety for Dayton.

Mason, just a week back from a broken hip, would get to see some fourth-quarter action as the homestanding 'Devils were just too strong, too fast, for the undermanned Tigers who have lost six of seven this season. Not so now for a Dayton team that stuggled early, dropping from 44 players to 23 when hit by Covid-19 the first weeks of the season.

But you couldn't tell that now. They've got guys who can fly. Lots of them. "The most talent I've ever worked with," Herbst says of his 4-3 (1-0 in the district) 'Devils, "and I was at Simon Kenton for 15 years."

Senior Brian Lewis is the scatback who can get wide in a hurry, "Lewie, Lewie," they call out when he gets going. And then there's Preston Baggot, a Dayton kid who transfered back after three years at Newport Central Catholic, next week's Class A district opponent for the 'Devils. Baggot goes 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds and runs with power and speed, shedding defenders' bodies as he goes. He is not the Class A player anyone is used to seeing. They each totaled more than 140 yards unofficially for a ground attack that piled up more than 300.

Then there's quick, tough quarterback Russell McIntyre, who runs the show with decisiveness. And finally, Caden Caraway, who returned a fumble 65 yards to get the scoring started and the rout under way.

Not even the looooong grass slowed the 'Devils down, grass longer than anything you'd seen since Notre Dame tried to slow down USC's Reggie Bush and didn't cut it for weeks.

Not the case here, Herbst says. "We want a fast track . . . the weather just didn't cooperate."

With neither team choosing to throw the ball -- all year, actually, not just this night -- it was ground and pound all the way. And with more speed and power, this was pretty predictable.

So was the hitting. At least a half-dozen times play was stopped to clear the bodies off the field, although nothing seemed especially serious. For as much as these neighbors know one another, they've been playing peewee football together for the two-town, one-team River City Ducks the last four years. Whether that makes things better -- or worse -- is probably up for debate. There were more than the usual late hits and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

And while it may be just a foreshadowing, more than one person on the sideline speculated that these two schools will almost certainly be one in the next decade. Only five football-playing schools in Kentucky have fewer than the 111 boys Bellevue enrolled in the 2020 school year. And there was serious consideration to calling off the season before the roster stabilized although having just eight players in pads on the sideline is a bit unnerving. With 133, Dayton is seven spots higher but still in the bottom 12 and just several years away from having to cancel games for not enough players.

"It comes and goes," said Joe Egan, an unofficial "mentor" and 1972 alum who has worked the last 36 years with Bellevue football while running study halls for the school. They'll be back, he guaranteed. This was his 60th Bellevue-Dayton game, Egan said, and even though that’s not half of the total, he could tell you that Bellevue leads the series 98-46 with three ties. 

Setting up behind the center in a bunched single-wing type formation with both backs available for the snap, Logan Allen and Zach Noonchester were workhorses. But they just could not get the ball across the goal line until Noonchester weaved in and out for 28 yards and the final score with 9:26 left in the game, giving him an unofficial 119 yards on 14 carries.

With all the history here, this was a night for the home team. "You played hard, you won with class," Herbst told his guys right before he got Gatorad-ed. Then looking at the paddle: "It's ours now, we're going to keep it forever."

Or for a while, anyway, having won the last two after losing the previous 12 straight by scores as one-sided as 64-0, 61-0, 58-8, and 46-0.

“We’re living the dream right now,” Herbst said of his coaching staff, most of whom are Dayton alums. “How cool is it to come back and coach your high school? It’s unbelievable.” And doing so in a place that's very much an old home for them.

--Dan Weber    



-By Jason Finnell

The Holmes Bulldogs notched their first district win and earned a little payback Friday night vs. Boyd County, knocking off the Lions, 24-13, on the same field where they were eliminated from the playoffs in their matchup 11 months ago.

The Boyd Co. defense appeared poised to begin their second possession of the opening quarter inside Holmes’ territory after an interception of Bulldogs quarterback Miguel Garcia, but a Lions pass interference penalty on the play gave Holmes new life.

Tayquan Calloway and Emauryon Arnold chipped away at the Boyd defense, until Garcia bolted through the left side on third-and-eight from the Lions 45, untouched for the score and a 6-0 Holmes lead after an unsuccessful two-point conversion try.

However, its lead would be short-lived. Lions’ kickoff returner Cameron Collins raced up the left sideline, nearing midfield when he was hit late out of bounds, giving the Lions the ball inside Holmes’s territory. Running back Dakota Thompson’s six yard carry placed Boyd at the Bulldogs 31-yard line, then freshman quarterback Rhett Holbrook found tight end Josh Thornton over the middle for 22 yards and a first down at the Holmes nine.

Three plays later, Jacob Barrett found the end zone from one yard out to put the Lions ahead, 7-6, to begin the second quarter.

Then, on its own 10-yard line following an unsportsmanlike penalty, the Bulldogs crossed midfield but stalled near the Lions 40, as a swing pass to Calloway gained four yards on fourth-and-six.

Boyd was unable to take advantage of its good fortune after a deflected pass found its way into the arms of receiver Trey Holbrook, as time was winding down in the half. On its next play from the Holmes 15, Holbrook was sacked, fumbled, and the Bulldogs recovered. With three seconds left, Garcia took a knee as the 7-6 score remained as the teams headed for the locker room.

“I told the guys we were going to be in a dogfight,” Holmes Head Coach Ben Nevels told his team at halftime, remembering what had happened last season.

Holmes received the second half kick but went three and out.

Holbrook led the Lions on a sustained drive, but it fizzled out near the Bulldogs 30 and punted away, a good one Boyd’s special teams downed at Holmes one-yard line. After an offsides penalty to give the Bulldogs breathing room, Holmes was off to the races. Garcia found room around the left side for 13 yards.

Boyd had an opportunity to regain possession at the Holmes 20, as it recovered a Bulldogs fumble – or so it appeared. Once the pile separated, referees signaled Holmes kept the football.

Then on first down from their own 37, Calloway raced down the right sideline until he was pushed out of bounds at the 13. Garcia lost a handle of the ball on the exchange but was able to recover and was able to make up the lost yardage on the next play gaining two. Arnold then put the Bulldogs back on top with a two-yard TD run and a 12-7 lead it carried into the final quarter.

The Lions initial drive of the fourth quarter, on third-and-two from their own 40, Holbrook executed a boot leg left to perfection, gaining 20 yards while drawing the Bulldogs defense away from him on the fake handoff to the right then rolling to his left. But he was sacked on the following play and hit as he released the ball on third down, as it shot up into the air and into the hands of Arnold.

Looking to cash in on the turnover, Holmes did just that. Calloway found a crease through the left side of the line for a 70-yard touchdown run and an 18-7 lead that sparked the Bulldogs fourth quarter momentum. But Boyd would rally with a scoring drive of its own. On second-and-seven from midfield, Collins’ 22-yard carry gave the Lions a first down as the quarter neared its midway point.

After a jet sweep was snuffed out by the Bulldogs resulting in a four-yard loss, Collins’ third down carry netted 23 yards. His number was called two plays later and he responded for a six-yard touchdown run to cut the margin to five, 18-13. Realizing time was not on their side, the Lions decided to go for an onside kick which it recovered but prior to the ball traveling 10 yards – an illegal touching penalty. With deflated Boyd looking on, the Bulldogs relished another opportunity to put away the team that ended their 2020 season. Garcia capped the scoring with a 25-yard keeper through the middle and an exclamation point on its first district win of the season, 24-13; a game that meant a little more. “Absolutely. Every game is a big game, especially every district game, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I lost a little sleep over this one,” Nevels said.

Holmes (5-2) stays home next week to face district foe, Harrison Co. while Boyd Co. (3-5) returns home to face district opponent, Scott.


Lloyd 14

Newport 21 (OT)

It took overtime, but the Wildcats were able to hold off their visitors from Erlanger to win their second consecutive game. Newport is now 3-5 on the year and will visit Holy Cross next week. Lloyd, meanwhile, has dropped four straight and stands at 2-5 on the season and will have their hands full next week when undefeated Beechwood welcomes them to Ft. Mitchell.

Highlands 41

Boone Co. 0

The Bluebirds snapped a four-game losing streak with a blow-out win on the road in Florence. Highlands (4-4) greets Covington Catholic next week, back home in Ft. Thomas. The Rebels, meanwhile, have suffered three-straight losses to fall to 3-5 on the year. Boone Co. visits Cooper next week.

Bishop Brossart 36

Bracken Co. 0

The Mustangs remain unscathed, stretching their unbeaten streak through eight games. Brossart (8-0) visits Paris next week.

Dixie Heights 33

Simon Kenton 20

Dixie picked up the win on the road in Independence to improve to 4-3 on the season. Ryle visits the Colonels next week. Simon Kenton (1-6) stays home for a date with Campbell Co.

Ryle 44

Campbell Co. 11

The Raiders had no trouble with their hosts in Alexandria and improve to 5-2 on the season. Next week, Ryle goes to Dixie. Campbell Co. has lost six straight games since its opening win to fall to 1-6. Next week, the Camels are at Simon Kenton.

Beechwood 56

Holy Cross 7

The Tigers remain unstoppable so far this season, easily dispatching their hosts and improving to 7-0 on the year. Beechwood is at Lloyd next week. Holy Cross (1-6) has lost six-straight games. Next week, the Indians host Newport.


Walton-Verona beat Owen Co., 42-12; Cooper beat Conner, 43-7; and Newport Central Catholic beat Ludlow, 69-28.

NKY SCOREBOARD compiled by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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