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NKY Football: Beechwood is Last Local Team Standing

Seven Northern Kentucky high school football teams took the field on Friday night in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. Only one remains. Columnist Dan Weber was at the Walton-Verona/Beechwood game along with photographer Brian Frey. You can read that story and see the photos below. Contributor Jason Finnell was at the Trinity-Ryle game and is his story is below, too. Also below is the regional scoreboard.


Beechwood is last NKY team standing in high school football postseason

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

And then there was one.

Just one. On a freezing Friday that saw the seasons of six of Northern Kentucky's seven playoff football teams abruptly ended, there remains one -- just one -- team that will be playing next week.

But the one that's left will not surprise anyone, will it? Beechwood's unbeaten Tigers continued their state title pursuit -- the Ft. Mitchell school's 16th if they can pull it off -- with a 50-6 regional championship romp over a Walton-Verona team that had won seven straight games but found itself pretty much out of its league against the now 13-0 Tigers.

 "You're perfect on the scoreboard, you're perfect on your won-loss record," Beechwood Coach Noel Rash was saying in something of a self-analysis of where his team is right now," but . . . we're not perfect."

They are, however, working on it. A 42-0 first half came pretty close to perfection as the three-and-out stumble the first possession was the only time the Tigers stubbed their toes. And a case could be made that was just a set-up.

Because on the fifth play Beechwood ran, super-senior Cameron Hergott ducked his head as he aimed his 6-foot-3, 200-pound body at right guard, raised up after a couple of quick steps and almost certainly started smiling at what he saw ahead of him 55 yards away.

"He has great vision," Rash said. What Hergott saw, probably by the third step, was the end zone where this play would finish up. And that was it. Made it look easy with his gliding long strides.

For a Walton-Verona team that finished 9-4, this one was pretty much over. Sure, the Bearcats had run a dozen plays to Beechwood's four to start but by the 3:42 mark in the first period, whatever shot Walton-Verona may have hoped it had was no more.

Beechwood's defense took the ball away on that 12th Walton-Verona play, recovering a fumble on the 45, and pretty much wouldn't let the Bearcats have it back until after intermission. And then only with a running clock and down by 42 points with the Tiger JV guys in the game.

For Kentucky's first-ever returning Mr. Football, that was Hergott's 150th touchdown in 53 high school games. He would go on to run three more in -- one from six yards out, then from 76 and finally from 45. He would also throw for a pair of TDs -- from the 11 on play-action to Tanner Jackson and from 16 to a wide-open Parker Mason.

Just another night at the ole ballpark for Cameron who touches the ball and makes the call on what to do with it "on every single play," Rash said. That he can call his own number certainly helps. "But he couldn't do it by himself," his coach said. The Tigers offensive line makes it happen.

On top of the vision thing and "doing all the little things right," which in Rash's mind starts with getting the footsteps down perfectly, what you see from Beechwood is that's all it takes. Once Hergott has those first three steps to get going, he shifts it into glide-drive. And yes, Rash nodded with a smile, by that fourth step you often know that Hergott won't be stopping until he hits the end zone.

And yeah, that sign for the next door Mercedes-Benz of Ft. Mitchell dealer overlooking Edgar McNabb Stadium says "AMG" but it's not the only place for a high-performance machine on the Dixie Highway.

This Tiger team that has scored 56, 62, 54, 70, 58, and 48 points the last six games -- with two of those in the playoffs -- has also shut out six of its 12 opponents.

And only a TD with 2:19 left against the subs kept this one from going that way. But the backups won't hear anything from the starters about giving up the shutout said junior linebacker Austin Waddell. "Naw, they support us . . . all our guys are as important as Cam," he said.

But . . . against a Walton-Verona team that was "big and well-coached," Waddell said, "we play real fast . . . that's the edge we have."

There's another edge that will continue next week. Playing at home. "It's great to be here," Waddell said as celebrating Beechwood fans and players, not to mention players and fans from Walton-Verona, socialized on the field despite the freezing cold.

"It's incredible," Rash said, "just look around. It's special, this place. We're very fortunate."

And they're doing it without two of their five senior captains -- Adam Gibbs and Brady Moore -- out with season-ending injuries but providing big-time leadership in practice and on the sidelines, Rash noted. "I'm not sure if I could do that," Rash said of handling that sort of senior-season disappointment.

Against a Mayfield team that's beaten Beechwood seven straight times in the playoffs -- the last time by 35-7 in 2019 at Mayfield -- they'll need that kind of leadership.

"We haven't beaten them, they do a great job," Rash said of a Mayfield team that beat Green County 48-6 Friday and as the third-ranked RPI team in Class 2A, will make the 320-mile trip from far western Kentucky in the Central Time Zone next week.

But his Tigers aren't doing badly right now, Rash says. "Our guys played really well." But they're not there yet, according to Rash. "It's the little things," and that's what they're going to be working on this week.

--Dan Weber


Trinity downs Ryle

-by Jason Finnell

There is an oft-used sports saying – some may refer to it as a cliché – that a team is better than their record shows. However, in Louisville Trinity’s case, it rings true. Entering Friday’s 6A playoff quarterfinal vs. Ryle, the Shamrocks line was 5-7. Five of those losses came against Carmel (IN), Moeller (OH), St. Rita (IL), LaSalle (OH), and traditional intra-city rival, Male; all strong programs in their respective states.

But Ryle was unable to come out with its first victory vs. Trinity, falling 38-18 at Borland Stadium in Union.

Multiple interceptions early from Raiders sophomore quarterback Logan Verax gave the Shamrocks offense a short field on its first two scores, a five-yard touchdown run by Armon Tucker, and a 35-yard scoring reception from Chris Whittington on the first play of the second quarter. On its ensuing possession, Raiders running back Jayce Harden turned a screen pass into a 31-yard dash to the Shamrocks 19-yard line.

But Trinity’s defense stopped Harden on second down and Verax’s third down pass fell incomplete, and Ryle’s drive stalled. Summer Denigan’s 32-yard field goal put the Raiders on the board and back in the game. Ryle’s defense held Trinity in-check on its next drive, holding it to a Tucker seven-yard run on first down but forcing the Shamrocks to punt away.

However, on the Raiders next possession, Trinity’s Gabe Mingus stepped in front of Verax’s intended receiver on third down as the Raiders were trying to inch closer and the sophomore defensive back raced 56 yards the other way for a touchdown, shutting down any momentum the Raiders had leading up to the half. Trinity would tack on a field goal before the teams headed to the locker room, for a 24-7 advantage.

To begin the third quarter, Ryle elected to go for an onside kick but was unable to make the recovery. After the Raiders defense held, Trinity punted away and it appeared Ryle fumbled the punt, but it caught a break as the referees stopped play, gathering on the field before deciding to replay the down because of an inadvertent whistle. This time, Ryle held on but gave the ball back two plays later; another Verax interception, which Cole Wickliffe returned 45 yards inside the Ryle 15.

Shamrocks quarterback Brady Willis then found Whittington for his second score of the evening and a 31-3 lead for Trinity midway through the third quarter.

Despite the Raiders ensuing drive coming up empty as Verax’s pass to Gavin Ruark fell incomplete in the end zone on fourth down, Lukas Colemire picked off Willis deep in Shamrocks territory to give his team another opportunity. Ryle then went right back to the air and received a pass interference call in the end zone on Trinity.

Following the penalty, Verax found Gardner in the left corner and Ryle had their first points since the midway point of the second quarter, as it now trailed, 31-11. Determined to put the Raiders away, Trinity’s fourth down conversion on a 35-yard run by Luke Sasser seemed to be the final blow. However, Sasser’s second down carry two plays later resulted in a Raiders fumble recovery on its own one-yard line.

But Ryle was unable to escape the shadow of its own goal post, ultimately turning the ball back to Trinity. Colin Bratcher’s five-yard TD reception then put the game away for good as the Shamrocks increased their lead, 38-11. Colemire’s 11-yard TD run pulled the Raiders to within three scores, 38-18, but the Shamrocks would out the clock to send itself to a state semifinal meeting with intra-city rival, Louisville Male.

Ryle concludes its season at 9-4 but returns many of its starters.


NKY SCOREBOARD

Class 1A

Bishop Brossart 7

Raceland 48

The Mustangs dream season comes to an end at 12-1. Brossart won most of its games this season easily, but Raceland (11-1) ran away on Friday night to take a slot in the semifinals.

Newport Central Catholic 0

Russellville 21

The season also ends for the Thoroughbreds with a 9-4 record. New Cath was shut out on the road in the quarterfinals by Russellville (11-1) which moves on to the semifinals.


Class 4A

Scott 14

Boyle Co. 51

The Eagles drew first blood but Boyle Co. (12-1) drew most of the rest. Scott finishes its season at 8-5.


Class 5A

Covington Catholic 14

Woodford Co. 28

The Colonels saw their seven-game winning streak snapped on the road at undefeated Woodford Co. Cov Cath ends its season at 9-4.


-Scoreboard compiled by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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