By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
The opportunity came for Eddie Eviston and he simply could not pass it up.
So after three impressive years as the head football coach of the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds, Eviston is leaving his high school alma mater to coach at his college alma mater. The 33-year-old held a meeting with the players Friday and told them he’d accepted the position of offensive coordinator for the Georgetown College Tigers of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Mid-South Conference.
“Although I am leaving the place I call ‘home,’ I am returning to a place that occupies a very special place in my heart,” Eviston said. “My alma mater, Georgetown College, is the place where my love and deep appreciation for the game of football began. My experience there as a student-athlete was greater than I could have ever imagined and provided me vast opportunities for life. My family and I look forward to this new opportunity and challenge, and I sincerely hope the Lord blesses me with the tools I need to help provide a similar experience to the one I had to the young men of the Georgetown College football program.”
Eviston is taking over for former Boone County standout quarterback Craig Mullins. Mullins is taking over the same spot at Morehead State University after serving as Georgetown’s offensive coordinator the previous 16 years under current head coach Bill Cronin. Like NewCath, Georgetown also runs a spread offense with the quarterback mostly lining up under center.
The former Georgetown and Thoroughbred quarterback still owns a number of Tiger records. That includes 9,282 passing yards, 12,703 total offensive yards, 83 passing touchdowns and 132 touchdowns responsible for. Eviston completed 559-of-927 passes and just 40 interceptions in his career.
“We’d thought about bringing him back many times,” Cronin said. “The opportunity never developed. It is the right thing for Eddie. He understands our system and the type of athletes it takes for it to be successful.”
Eviston had been on the NewCath staff since 2006. The school promoted him to the tough role of filling in for the retiring legendary 44-year head coach Bob Schneider in 2010.
But Eviston added to the tradition going 35-8 in those three years adding three more district championships, three more appearances in the regional finals and two state championships in 2010 and this year. The Thoroughbreds own an overall record of 447-334-10 in school history with five state championships, six runner-up finishes, 20 district championships and 12 regional championships.
NewCath owns 13 straight winning seasons and 13 consecutive trips to the third round of the playoffs. The Thoroughbreds have posted double-digit victories in all but 2009 during that time. They’ve won a school-record 13 games in a season five times in that span including Eviston’s first year in 2010.
“It is with mixed emotions that I inform all that Eddie Eviston is not returning as our head football coach next year,” said Carl Foster, NewCath Principal. “A part of me knows we are losing a great coach and more importantly, an excellent role model for our young men. Another part of me knows he has accepted a great offer to be Offensive Coordinator for Georgetown College. I am happy Eddie can return to Georgetown, a school he successfully quarterbacked to two National Championships (in 2000 and 2001).”
Eviston graduated from NewCath in 1997. NewCath finished 34-16 in his four years of high schools winning an undefeated district championship his freshman year. The Thoroughbreds constantly battled Beechwood for district supremacy in those days and could not get past the Tigers in the playoffs in Eviston’s freshman and junior seasons.
Eviston still ranks among the all-time passing leaders in school history. He completed 111-of-230 attempts for 1,574 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career.
“He’s been with us a lot longer than I think a lot of people realize,” said Rob Detzel, NewCath Director of Athletics. “He’s part of the NewCath family. He walked into a tough role taking over for Coach Schneider and handled it beautifully. It was a seamless transition. We’re thankful for what he did not only as a coach but also a mentor to the young men we have.”
The players said they took the news with mixed emotions like Foster did. Graduating wide receiver Pete Collopy said they didn’t know what to expect at the meeting.
“We were somewhat shocked,” Collopy said. “But we want what’s best for Coach (Eviston). He had a heck of an opportunity in front of him. You can’t fault him for that. We hope to get another coach in here that can do what he’s been doing. That’s keep winning.”
The Thoroughbreds finished 13-2 in 2010 losing to just Ryle and Beechwood in double overtime in the regular season. They capped off the year with a 42-0 throttling of Owensboro Catholic in the state championship.
Despite graduating Chris Kelly and Jake Cain among others, NewCath came into 2011 hoping for a repeat like the 2006 squad did. But eventual champion and district rival Covington Holy Cross shocked the Thoroughbreds, 24-21 in the regional title game . NewCath’s lone other loss in the 11-2 season came 29-20 to Beechwood to conclude the regular season.
This past season did not start off well. The Thoroughbreds love playing bigger schools and they started the year 2-4 losing close games to Cincinnati McNicholas (27-24), Simon Kenton (28-20) and Covington Holmes (12-7). But that tough schedule paid off as NewCath rolled through district action by a combined 219-24.
After beating Holy Cross to move to 5-4, Eviston and staff made a huge challenge to NewCath after a bad practice early the following week. The staff did not want the Thoroughbreds to settle for mediocrity after rolling through the district. NewCath responded with a 34-14 win over rival Beechwood for the first time since 2009.
“It shows he had the foresight to play these tough teams,” Detzel said. “It made our kids better forcing them to work harder. He wasn’t panicking. It honestly wasn’t one of our better teams. That’s a credit to Eddie and the staff for keeping those kids focused and coming back to win the state championship.”
The Thoroughbreds then rolled to another regional championship smashing Gallatin County, Holy Cross and Walton-Verona by a combined 150-27. NewCath ventured to a hostile environment for the state semifinals and came away with a 27-18 victory over a hungry Somerset squad.
NewCath then concluded the season with a thrilling 30-26 win over Caldwell County in the 2A title game at Western Kentucky University. Quarterback Josh Cain completed the game-winning 4-yard pass to Tyler Lyon with 26 second left to lift the Thoroughbreds to their fifth state championship.
“I want to thank the coaching staff and all the young men who I had the honor of coaching at Newport Central Catholic the past 3 years,” Eviston said. “Their efforts are a big reason I have been provided this opportunity, and I cannot be more grateful for the tremendous experiences and memories we share. I know no matter where I am and what I am doing, I will always be a Thoroughbred.”
Georgetown finished 10-1 winning another MSC title last year. The Tigers finished the regular season undefeated but lost 45-44 to MSC rival Bethel University in the first round of the NAIA playoffs.
NewCath will have some question marks for next season after graduating 15 seniors including Cain and leading rusher Dylan Hayes. Leading receiver Mac Franzen returns. The new head coach and staff will need to determine if Franzen will stay at wide receiver or move into the quarterback role.
“A fortunate problem we’ve had is we lose good players every year,” Detzel said. “We’ve been pretty much not had to rebuild, but reload. We have some good, young underclassmen. We’re hoping to step up and be in the mix for a state championship next year.”
The Thoroughbreds do return a number of key players from the state championship team. Aside from Franzen, junior linebacker Jack Sutkamp returns after leading the team in tackles. Freshman Jacob Smith is the leading candidate to step into the top running back role.
“We just have to continue to work hard no matter who the coaches are,” Smith said. “We hope to continue in the footsteps of the (past players) and do well.”
Detzel said he and Foster will have lunch next week to talk about the hiring process, but nothing will be done about the hiring process until Jan. 7 when NewCath returns from holiday break. Detzel also said plans have been made for current assistant coaches to oversee offseason weight lifting and conditioning programs that being that day.
NewCath Defensive Coordinator Dan Wagner is a leading candidate to take over the job. He’s held that role since 2000.