By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
TAYLOR MILL – The emotions hit high points in the battle between the last two Class 2A state champions, both from District 6.
But when the final horn sounded, the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds showed why they’re once again the team to beat in the district and region if not the entire state of Kentucky. The Thoroughbreds (5-4 overall, 4-0 district) rolled to their third straight win and 23rd consecutive regular-season win against district opponents with a 49-10 bulldozing of the Covington Holy Cross Indians (3-6, 2-2) on Thursday at Scott High. They ended up outscoring the four district opponents, 219-32.
This marks the eighth consecutive district title for NewCath and 20th overall. The Thoroughbreds improved to 17-2 all-time against Holy Cross. The only losses to the Indians came in 2006 and in the regional title game last year.
NewCath made its faithful fans forget about that loss quickly. The Thoroughbreds dominated the trenches on both sides of the ball and on special teams. They built a 35-3 halftime lead and never took the pedal off the metal forcing the running clock in the second half.
“We have an older group, but they’re not very varsity-experienced,” said Eddie Eviston, NewCath head coach. “It took a while for us to play together and trust one another a little bit. You could see it in practice the last month. We hope they continue to do that.”
The Thoroughbreds outgained the Indians, 276-251 in total offense, including 262-154 on the ground. They also took advantage of some short field position. NewCath’s average starting position was its own 36 compared to about the 27 for Holy Cross. The Thoroughbreds punted better averaging 37 a kick on three punts to five punts for an average of about 23 yards for the Indians.
Senior Dylan Hayes had another monster game for NewCath with 284 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns. He had 11 carries for 168 yards and three touchdowns for an average of just more than 15 a touch and three punt returns for 116 yards and two touchdowns for an average of 38.7 a return.
“I think (Hayes) is playing with a lot of confidence,” Eviston said. “He’s running hard and I think he’s seeing things better. That comes with a little bit of faith in the guys. I’m glad to see things come to fruition in the last few weeks.”
Hayes did have help in the rushing department. Freshman Jacob Smith had 57 yards on eight carries and a touchdown and senior Mason Myers added 30 yards on three carries and a score.
NewCath did so well on the ground that quarterback Josh Cain only passed five times. He completed three for 14 yards including two to Dan Ruwe for nine yards.
On the other side of the ball, the Thoroughbreds contained the Indians’ big threats. They held junior Jalen Beal to just 78 yards on 12 carries rushing the ball and Burt Pouncy to nine yards on three carries. Beal did not have any receptions and Pouncy had two for 45 yards.
The Indians were not real effective throwing the ball. Quarterback Mitch Trail completed just 5-of-17 passes for 97 yards. Trail spent a few months at NewCath in the spring after moving to northern Kentucky from Gilbert, Arizona just outside Phoenix. He transferred to Holy Cross in August.
“I really think our strong suite was everybody running to the ball,” said Ross Meek, NewCath junior lineman. “If one guy got there, it didn’t matter if he missed. We were all there to help out.”
NewCath took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Hayes scored on a 7-yard scamper and Smith scored his touchdown take an option pitch from Cain and rumbling 37 yards down the right side for the score.
“I just saw the hole and I know (my teammates) had my back so I cut it up and ran fast,” Smith said. “I broke a tackle and I knew I was going to reach the end zone.”
The Thoroughbred defense then came up huge. Beal ran 62 yards down to the NewCath 3. But Holy Cross could not punch the ball into the end zone on two Beal runs then two Pouncy runs.
NewCath held the Indians to a Hamilton Scott 28-yard field goal on their next drive. Trail completed a 28-yard pass to Cary Sketch to set up first-and-goal from the Thoroughbred 4. After a Beal carry netted nothing, Trail threw two incomplete passes toward the back of the end zone.
After trading possessions, Hayes returned a punt 36 yards for a touchdown. That made the score 21-3 NewCath.
Then like the Lloyd Memorial game, the Thoroughbreds struck quickly in the last two minutes of the half. Hayes broke free for a 70-yard score with 1:08 and NewCath received the ball back at the Indian 24 after recovering a Holy Cross fumble. Myers ran outside and scored on the first play from scrimmage with 39 seconds left in the half.
The Throughbreds scored two quick touchdowns in the first two minutes of the second half. Hayes scored on a 53-yard run then returned another punt back 71 yards for a score.
The refs kept this game under control. The teams combined for 11 penalties for 118 yards including seven personal fouls.
The Thoroughbreds finish the season Friday at home against rival Beechwood (5-3). Game time is 7 p.m. at Newport Stadium.