By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
NEWPORT – The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds football team owns three state titles since 2005.
They hope to add a fourth this year to ease the sting of watching the Class 2A, District 6 rival Covington Holy Cross Indians win it last year. Holy Cross took down NewCath, 24-21 in the regional title game last year. NewCath still finished 11-2 overall and claimed another district championship.
That is the reason third-year head coach Eddie Eviston emphasized taking things game-by-game. The Thoroughbreds won the Class 2A title over Owensboro Catholic in Eviston’s first year in 2010. They are 24-4 in the 1997 NewCath graduate’s tenure.
“You have to pay attention to small details and everything will take care of itself,” Eviston said. “That’s one thing we maybe lost sight of a little bit (last year). We started up in January and a lot of these guys went to work. We had a focus in the offseason every day. The guys are ready to get the season going.”
The Thoroughbreds have a ton of talent to get back to their sixth state championship game since 2005 starting with the skill position players. Senior running backs Dylan Hayes and Mason Myers return after huge seasons. Hayes has 2,658 all-purpose yards including 1,538 on the ground to go with 27 touchdowns for his career and Myers has eight rushing touchdowns for his career.
NewCath also returns two solid wide receivers in Mac Franzen and Pete Collopy. Franzen caught 39 balls for 608 yards and five touchdowns last year. That puts pressure on defenses in the Thoroughbreds’ spread offense. Not only do the NewCath wide receivers pride themselves in catching, they like to block for the running backs.
Senior Josh Cain appears to be taking over for the graduated three-year starting quarterback Brady Hightchew. Mitch Trail, an all-state quarterback in Gilbert, Arizona, transferred to NewCath in the spring but departed for Holy Cross last week.
“Brady Hightchew was a great runner the past three years,” Collopy said. “But with Josh (Cain) at quarterback, that really balances out our offense. It will keep (defenses) guessing.”
NewCath returns some experience on the offensive line. Brady Thacker, Elliot Rust, Jake Haas, and Colin Hoover return along with tight end Ted Lyon to anchor the offensive line.
The Thoroughbred defense tends to wear teams down led by the front seven. Rust, Haas and Lyon combined for 192 tackles on the defensive line last year with Logan Neff and Hoover giving the line depth.
NewCath also has depth in the linebacker spots with Collopy recording 94 tackles and Myers had 81. Thacker, Franzen and Moore also provide solid play in the middle of the field.
“Last year we had good leaders, but this year, we have some great, great leaders,” Franzen said. “This goes from playing to leading when we’re not on the field. We do activities as a team. We have guys getting water among other things.”
The Thoroughbreds like to force teams into third-and-long situations to give the secondary opportunities. Cain picked off five passes last year and Hayes also returns there after a solid 2011 campaign.
“We’ve been working on our hands to get outside against outside pitches and trying to turn the running backs inside because all our help is inside with the linebackers,” Rust said. “We’ve been working a lot on speed and technique in the offseason. On third-and-long, it’s either contain or full-go so we get after (teams.)”
There are some questions for NewCath in the kicking game. Kicker Matt Burns graduated after breaking several team records. Meyers and Hayes are solid return specialists. A couple guys are battling for the kicking duties while Cain punted last year. But Eviston said others may punt.
NewCath may again be favored to win a district championship. But that does not mean Holy Cross, Lloyd Memorial, Newport and Bishop Brossart won’t challenge them. The Indians return junior tailback Jalen Beal and Lloyd Memorial returns quarterback Dexter Smith.
The Thoroughbreds don’t shy away from facing opponents from Class 6A, District 6. Dixie Heights, Campbell County and Simon Kenton are on the schedule in that district in addition to the yearly showdown with Class A state power Beechwood.
“We take pride in that schedule,” Eviston said. “It really sets the tone of where we stand, not only as a team, but across Northern Kentucky. We love the great competition.”
NewCath travels to Cooper for a scrimmage at 7 p.m. tonight before opening the season against Dixie Heights at 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 17 in the Skyline Crosstown Showdown.
Date: Opponent: Time:
Friday, August 10 at Dixie Heights 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 17 at Cincinnati McNicholas 1 p.m.
Friday, August 31 at Campbell County 7 p.m.
Saturday, September 15 Simon Kenton 7 p.m.
Friday, September 21 at Bishop Brossart* 7 p.m.
Friday, September 28 at Covington Holmes 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 6 Lolyd Memorial* 1 p.m.
Friday, October 12 at Newport* 7 p.m.
Thursday, October 18 at Holy Cross (at Scott High) 7 p.m.
Friday, October 26 Beechwood 7 p.m.
*- Class 2A, District 6 contest