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Dan Weber's Just Sayin': Catching Up with NKY Sports Hall of Famers; Previewing Friday Night

Dan Weber writes a sports column for The River City News. Contact him at dweber3440@aol.com

The standing room only turnout Wednesday at the Villa Hills Civic Club for this month’s Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame induction had a distinct Holy Cross feel to it. And a guest speaker in WXIX sports anchor Joe Danneman, a Covington Catholic grad and Edgewood/St. Pius X dad. If you get the chance some time, ask Joe about his first big TV interview as an intern with NFL great Warren Sapp. Makes you realize that behind the scenes, getting to go to the games and hanging out in the locker rooms isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

But Joe’s stories weren’t the only ones that were told this week by a group of inductees who have spent more time passing on their love of sports to the next couple of generations than they did in playing it themselves. As Holy Cross alum Bob Saalfeld related how his coach, George Schneider said he “didn’t need 110 percent from him, just 100 percent,” the athlete turned coach, organizer, parent of four and grandparent of 15, put that 100 percent into every sort of youth sports for kids.   

Bishop Brossart alum Mike Holtz, now the principal at Holy Cross after also serving as baseball coach there, said his honor was “a team thing.” And that he had a basic goal when coaching: “I wanted opponents to feel like playing us was like going to the dentist . . . I hope there aren’t any dentists in the crowd.”

Former St. Henry basketball/baseball star Kevin Timon, who translated that stardom to Thomas More, noted that “playing was a true privilege but coaching I really enjoyed,” and he had seven grandchildren in attendance with a story about his first days coaching one of their teams. He overheard his grandson instructing his young teammates that “my grandpa is going to be coaching us and he’s a basketball legend.” “At least now I can say I’m a Hall of Famer,” Timon said.

Then legendary NKU women’s basketball coach Nancy Winstel described the journey of Rachel Lantry Berkemeier, a high-scoring soccer and basketball star who went from Ludlow to Holy Cross to NKU and became a tough-defending leader on a national champion NKU basketball team. “Four years of public speaking (courses) and it all went down the drain when I learned I was going to have to speak today,” Rachel said. And in thanking her parents for always being there for her, she noted how “there wasn’t a time when my parents weren’t cheering me on and giving me the sign to shoot.”

As for his own hall of fame credentials, Danneman noted how his parents still have the plaque up he won for JV Cross Country as a 1998 CovCath senior. “This is as close as I’ll ever get to a hall of fame,” he said.   

*** What a run the Notre Dame Academy girls soccer team is on right now. At 24-0-1 with 22 shutouts, the Pandas host Lexington Catholic Saturday afternoon at 4 in the second round of the Kentucky High School Soccer playoffs. In fact, NDA has allowed just three goals in 25 games and hasn’t been scored on in either the Ninth Regional or State Tournament yet. Goalkeeper Abby Breeze has 21 of those shutouts and a goals-against average of a miniscule 0.12. The last team to score on NDA was Beechwood in the 35th District championship game and that was a 2-1 thriller with NDA forced to win it in a shootout. So after you get your high school football fix on Friday night, why not catch some top futbol and give the Pandas a look Saturday . . . JUST SAYIN’.

*** When Bellevue and Newport Central Catholic face off Friday night, it’ll be the 32nd meeting of the neighboring rivals since they first started playing in 1951 when Bellevue had the upper hand in a 40-6 romp. But after winning the last 13 straight, NewCath leads the series 25-6 and it doesn’t look like that’s about to change this year . . . JUST SAYIN’.

*** NDA soccer is not the only place they’re playing defense these days. Three boys soccer leaders in shutouts, all with six apiece, are Brayden Blackburn (Dixie Heights), Kyle Holmes (Holy Cross), and Sam Kunkle (Walton-Verona). On the opposite end of the scoreboard, Scott’s Carlos Marshall, with 31 goals, tops all boys scorers while Villa Madonna’s Brooklyn Pickens leads the girls with 32 goals followed by Ashtyn Ivey (Dixie Heights) and Ruby Dunlevy (Campbell County) with 30 each . . . JUST SAYIN’. 

*** Nice job by the Covington Catholic boys who started the season 2-6 before winning their first regional title in five years and now have advanced to the second round of the state tournament with a win at Montgomery County and have done so on the strength of four shutouts in their last five games with senior goalie Carter Eilers leading the way here . . . JUST SAYIN’.

*** The one real change in high school football RPI rankings this week here has Bishop Brossart’s 9-0 Mustangs moving up to the No. 5 spot in the state’s Class A as the only unbeaten team in the Top 10 while NewCath (6-2) is No. 9. In this week’s Kentucky AP Poll, NewCath is No. 6 and Brossart No. 7. But Class 2A is the place to keep your eye on with five – count ‘em, five – unbeaten teams on top of the poll with Beechwood at No. 2 all season behind Lexington Catholic and ahead of Mayfield, Middlesboro and Green County, all with 8-0 records . . . JUST SAYIN’.

*** Looks like NKU will be in the Horizon League hunt in both men’s and women’s basketball with the league’s coaches tabbing the NKU men third (behind Ohio teams Cleveland State and Wright State) and the women fourth (behind IUPUI, Green Bay and Milwaukee). NKU’s Trevon Faulkner and Marques Warrick were picked second-team all-league on the men’s side while Lindsey Duvall was named first-team and Ivy Walker second team. For the men, it’s the fifth-straight season the Norse have been a top-five pick. Interesting look-ahead at where teams in the middle of the Division I pack like NKU end up scheduling with an NKU game at Indiana in Bloomington Dec. 22 following the Norse hosting 10 days earlier of Alice Lloyd of Pippa Passes, Ky., a Knott County town and a school whose combined populations of 1,000 or so could fit 17 times over into IU’s 17,122-seat Assembly Hall . . . JUST SAYIN’.      

--Dan Weber

Photo: Newport Central Catholic and Bellevue collide on the football field in a 2019 game (Brian Frey/RCN file)