By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports
The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds football team hopes to get a lot of improvements done in practice this week before the season-opener.
The Thoroughbreds scrimmaged at Cooper on Friday and found out a lot needs to be fixed. Head coach Eddie Eviston said he’d be around all day if he had to list all of them heading into Friday’s battle against the host Dixie Heights Colonels in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.
“We have a new quarterback (Jake Cain) that does not have that much varsity experience,” Eviston said. “I did not see much (center-quarterback) exchange issues. It was us not holding onto the ball. That’s one thing we have to fix. Obviously, we can’t turn the ball over or we’re going to lose football games.”
Cain takes over at quarterback after the graduation of three-year starter Brady Hightchew. Cain completed 24-of-33 passes last year for 324 yards and three touchdowns backing up Hightchew last year.
But Cain has plenty of experienced support around him led by linemen Brady Thacker, Elliot Rust, Jake Haas, Colin Hoover and tight end Ted Lyon. Cain also has some experienced skill players to get the ball to. Running back Dylan Hayes had 2,658 all-purpose yards including 1,538 rushing to go with 27 touchdowns. Wide receiver Mac Franzen caught 39 balls for 608 yards and five touchdowns last year.
Eviston said NewCath works a lot on ball security drills. But that does not always translate into success on the field.
“It’s just that you’re dealing with teen-aged boys,” Eviston said. “Sometimes they get in games and don’t remember things you talked about on Monday and Tuesday. We have to practice better and come game time, we have to remember the things that have been coached.”
Defensively, NewCath returns a lot of experience. Cain picked off five passes in the secondary last year.
On the defensive line, Rust, Haas and Lyon combined for 192 tackles last year with Pete Collopy recording 94 tackles and Mason Myers 81 tackles respectively as linebackers.
The Thoroughbreds are facing a familiar team with lots of new faces this year. The Colonels graduated standout quarterback Zeke Pike and running back Colin Justice transferred to Beechwood. Dixie Heights promoted defensive coordinator and former Covington Catholic head coach Dave Brossart to head coach when 17-year veteran head coach Tom Spritzky resigned.
“I think every year you don’t know what to expect out of any team,” Eviston said. “You have so many guys that graduate and so many guys that are important to your team. Some of the basics of a program you can expect. But you really don’t know about that team until you play them. That’s what is so unique about game one. There will be a lot of questions answered Friday.”
Junior Evan Hicks and sophomore Drew Moore are battling for the starting quarterback job. They’ve a combined 10 career passes at the varsity level. Joe Radenhausen looks to be Dixie’s top running back with seniors Matt Glad and Aaron Cahill looking to make an impact at wide receiver. Glad and Cahill have a combined two catches in varsity action.
Defensively, linebacker Seth Caple had 74 tackles and four sacks last year. The Colonels are looking for leadership out of Alex Milligan on the defensive line and Trey Simmons in the secondary.
The teams have met to open the regular season the previous three years. NewCath has won the last two including a 42-13 count last year.
Game time is 8:30 p.m. in Covington.