By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
It may have been the first round of the Class 2A football playoffs Friday at Newport Stadium.
But to the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (7-4), it may have felt a lot like the regular season against teams in their class or lower. The Thoroughbreds handled the Gallatin County Wildcats (6-5), 49-13 to move to 6-0 against teams in Classes 2A and 1A. NewCath has advanced past the second round of the playoffs every year since 1999.
“Our kids were ready to play,” said Eddie Eviston, NewCath head coach. “We talked about this. It doesn’t matter who your opponent is in the meeting. We took care of business right off the bat.”
The fourth-ranked Thoroughbreds also beat the Wildcats, 56-0 last year before falling 24-21 to the eventual state champion Covington Holy Cross Indians, 24-21 on Nov. 18 in the region title game. The Thoroughbreds and Indians (4-7) will meet this Friday in the playoff rematch in a battle of the last two 2A state champions.
Holy Cross won 42-32 at Owen County on Friday to set up the rematch. NewCath dominated Holy Cross, 49-10 on Oct. 18 in the regular season.
In the other Region 3 second-round contest, Lloyd Memorial (8-3) will travel to District 5 champion Walton-Verona (9-2). Lloyd beat Carroll County, 34-20 and Walton-Verona took out Newport, 42-7 to set up the regular season rematch that the Juggernauts won 38-33 on Sept. 7.
The Thoroughbreds outgained the Wildcats, 282-235 in total offense, including 121-94 in the rushing game. Dylan Hayes once again led NewCath with 78 yards rushing on eight carries and two touchdowns for an average of 9.75 a touch. His 90-yard kickoff return to open the game gave the Thoroughbreds the lead for good.
NewCath quarterback Josh Cain also had a good game passing the ball. He completed 6-of-8 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Mac Franzen had two catches for 112 yards.
Defensively, NewCath focused on Gallatin County tailback Nick Brown. He finished with 115 yards rushing on 24 carries and one touchdown for an average of just under 4.8 a touch. He also had two catches for seven yards but just 20 yards on eight carries in the first half.
The Thoroughbreds scored 28 points in the first half and never looked back. After Hayes’ kickoff return, Cain completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Dan Ruwe to put NewCath up 14-0.
NewCath scored two more rushing touchdowns in the first quarter. Hayes had a 20-yard run and Pete Collopy had a 3-yard score.
The Thoroughbreds put the game away in the second quarter with 21 more points. Hayes had a 1-yard run and Jacob Smith scored from four yards out. Ruwe capped off the scoring with his second touchdown of the game on a 7-yarder from Cain. That allowed the reserves to play in the second half.
“Right now, we have a lot of young guys that haven’t played together so we’re trying to get these guys experience more than anything,” Eviston said. “There’s a lot of teaching moments. We were trying to get these guys in position to do the right thing in the second half. We keep it simple and get them used to the game speed.”
Neither team scored in the third quarter before Gallatin County scored twice in the third, Brown scored on a 1-yard run and the conversion run failed. Minutes later, Nate McCoy scored on an 18-yard pass from Austin Chapman.
Dan Caudill and Nathan Grosser alternated extra-point attempts for NewCath. They combined to make all seven.
NewCath improved to 31-8 since Eviston took over as head coach in 2010. This year and last year are the only two meetings ever against the Wildcats.