By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
The eighth-ranked Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds football team sent a strong message to the rest of Class 2A, District 6 on Saturday.
The Thoroughbreds are still the team to beat in the district after a 63-22 thrashing of the improved Lloyd Memorial Juggernauts at Newport Stadium following a strong week of practice. NewCath won its 15th in a row over Lloyd dating back to a 31-29 loss on the last game of the regular season in 1991. The Thoroughbreds moved to 30-6 all-time against the Juggernauts.
“Football is a game of execution and preparation,” said Eddie Eviston, NewCath head coach. “I think we prepared pretty well. Our kids did what they were coached this week and we were able to execute.”
NewCath (3-4 overall) may have struggled at 1-4 against bigger, non-district squads from Kentucky Classes 6A, 4A and Ohio Division III. But the Thoroughbreds have taken care of business against district squads to move to 2-0 and grab sole possession of first place outscoring Lloyd and Bishop Brossart by a combined 121-22.
NewCath moved to 9-0 against district opponents during the regular season since Eviston took over as head coach in 2010. The Thoroughbreds have won 21 in a row against district opponents in the regular season dating back to a 28-21 loss to Beechwood on Sept. 30, 2006.
NewCath did not take anything for granted against a Juggernaut squad (6-2, 2-1) that already eclipsed last year’s 5-7 record in the win column. The Thoroughbreds scored on their first three possessions and never looked back.
The Thoroughbreds outgained the Juggernauts, 387-337 in total offense, including 262-151 on the ground behind good blocking. NewCath ran the ball 35 times for an average of about 7.5 a carry to 33 times for Lloyd for an average of about 4.6 a touch.
“We obviously have to get better defensively,” said Josh Stratton, Lloyd Memorial head coach. “We tackled atrociously. Defensively, it was our worst performance of the year by far.”
The main offensive threats for the Thoroughbreds had big games as a result. Dylan Hayes rushed for 174 yards on 15 carries for an average of 11.6 a touch to go with three rushing touchdowns and a 65-yard punt return. Hayes constantly gave the Thoroughbreds good field position with the punt returns.
NewCath quarterback Josh Cain completed 9-of-14 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown pass to Mac Franzen. Franzen finished with four catches for 78 yards, including the 15-yard touchdown reception.
But NewCath saw some other players step forward in the win. Mason Myers scored touchdowns on both rushes for a combined 13 yards and took back an interception 36 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Freshman Jacob Smith also had a nice day rushing the ball. He carried the pigskin 10 times for 63 yards and a 3-yard touchdown run with 3:58 left in the game.
“We’re trying to get the ball spread around a little bit,” Eviston said. “We told the (offensive) linemen we were going to put everything on their shoulders (Saturday) and they responded well.”
On the defensive side, NewCath constantly put pressure on Juggernaut quarterback Dexter Smith. The Thoroughbreds held him to no yards rushing on eight carries and sacked him four times. Logan Neff, Jimmy Raleigh, Jack Sutkamp had at least one sack for NewCath.
“We’ve been working on getting better at (pressuring quarterbacks) the past few weeks,” Neff said. “It started off with (Campbell County dual-threat quarterback) Tyler Durham (who ran for 194 yards against NewCath on Aug. 31 in a 42-16 Camel win). We worked through that. It has helped us a lot.”
Dexter Smith did complete 10-of-17 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. But the scores came with the Thoroughbreds up by at least 32 points. Four of those passes went to Akintomide Mejolagbe for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
Juggernaut running back Jared Gabbard did have some luck running out of Lloyd’s spread attack. He finished with 125 yards on 18 carries for an average of just under seven a carry.
Turnovers played a big part in the win. Lloyd turned the ball over twice to none for NewCath. The Thoroughbreds scored 15 points off those turnovers.
NewCath led 20-3 after the first quarter. The Thoroughbreds opened with the ball and marched 64 yards in 10 plays and scored on a Myers 3-yard run with 9:42 left in the quarter. Cain hit Franzen on a 25-yard pass on 3rd-and-6 from the 50 to continue the drive.
After a Juggernaut field goal, NewCath drove down the field another 64 yards in eight plays capped off by a Hayes 1-yard plunge with 2:39 left. Hayes broke free for a 59-yard touchdown scamper less than two minutes later.
NewCath pulled away in the second quarter. Down 17, Lloyd decided to go for it on 4th-and-2 from its own 34 and Myers picked off Dexter Smith and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown to put NewCath up 28-3 following Cain’s two-point conversion.
“Every week, we work hard,” Myers said. “I could tell we’d have a good game because we did that this week.”
After Franzen’s touchdown reception, NewCath responded to a Lloyd score when Myers ran it in from 10 yards out. The Thoroughbreds then recovered the ensuing kickoff at the Juggernaut 30. Hayes broke free for a 30-yard scamper for his 11th rushing touchdown of the year to put NewCath up 49-9 at halftime.
The teams played about even on the scoreboard in the second half. They scored one touchdown in each of the quarters.
The Thoroughbreds continue district action Friday against in-town rival Newport (3-5, 1-1). Game time is 7 p.m.
NewCath soccer also wins:
The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds soccer team (4-9-5 overall) also won Saturday knocking off winless Campbell County (0-15), 3-0.
Sam Barth, Matt Tolle and Ben Tiereny scored goals for NewCath. Senior goalkeeper Nathan Grosser saved all six Camel shots.NewCath faces Highlands at Tower Park on Thursday at 8 p.m. for the District 36 championship.