By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
NEWPORT – That familiar, good feeling of the thrill of victory found its way back to the Hill on Friday.
The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds played tough defense the entire game before their offense finished off drives in the second half to beat the visiting Lloyd Memorial Juggernauts, 22-7 in the Class 2A, District 6 opener for both teams. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the defending 2A state champions. The Thoroughbreds have won 16 in a row over the Juggernauts dating back to 1991 and lead the all-time series, 31-6.
NewCath (2-4) held Lloyd Memorial to just 163 yards of total offense and five first downs. That included just 27 yards on the ground. Teams from classes 5A and 6A did that to the Thoroughbreds during the losing streak.
“The last three weeks we’ve actually been playing some pretty decent defense,” said Dan Wagner, NewCath Head Coach. “I know it doesn’t show on that scoreboard, but we’re so young (that) the kids are getting the ideas of what we want. Those big schools had to work for (the touchdowns). We didn’t give them anything. I thought we had a chance to be a pretty good defense. We’re slowly getting there.”
The Juggernauts (3-3) came into the game on a two-game winning streak. But this marked progress for them from last year. They have a new head coach in former Boone County Offensive Coordinator Eric Turner. NewCath smashed Lloyd Memoral, 63-22 last year in Newport.
“It is a big step emotionally and mentally knowing we can play with (NewCath),” Turner said. “Our defense really stepped up and played hard. Offensively, we just couldn’t get the thing rolling.”
The Thoroughbreds led just 3-0 at halftime. But NewCath found some things offensively in the second half scoring three touchdowns. The Thoroughbreds finished with 389 yards of total offense and 13 first downs.
“Things started to go our way,” said Dave Schneider, NewCath Offensive Coordinator. “We had confidence and made big plays. It’s amazing what confidence does for you.”
NewCath quarterback Mac Franzen completed 12-of-18 passes for 237 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Junior Nate Enslen caught four of those passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Senior Tommy Donnelly hauled in two for 42 yards and a touchdown with Brandon Gray making three catches for 57 yards.
The Thoroughbreds may not be running the ball like previous years. Sophomore Jacob Smith finished with 63 yards rushing on 15 carries and Franzen had 56 on 16 carries. But many injured linemen such as Seniors Matt Lenz, Stephen Brooks and Junior Logan Neff returned from injuries this week.
“They did a nice job pass-protecting,” Schneider said. “We also did a nice job running the ball in spots. I’m very pleased with the way they played in the second half.”
Those injuries gave the younger linemen opportunities to come in and contribute. Sophomores Maleek Lawrence and Konner Carmack are two of them.
“Being a sophomore and starting on the Blue Team last year, it really helps out for the varsity,” Carmack said. “If the older (players) do things right, it helps us a lot. We’re trying to be more physical and get faster. It’s going to be a matter of repetition.”
Lloyd Memorial quarterback Hayden Molitor also completed 12-of-18 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. Brian Freeman led the Juggernauts with four catches for 18 yards and Zack Riddle making two catches for 28. The Juggernauts played without injured running back Brian Warren.
“We’ve had guys step up,” Turner said. “That’s a big hole to fill. We have some guys playing out of position, but trying to learn that position. We just have to go to work each week and do better filling those gaps.”
NewCath drove into Juggernaut territory on all four possessions of the first half. But Lloyd stopped the Thoroughbreds on fourth down on its nine and Lloyd safety Kyle Grant recorded one of his two interceptions. John Caudill booted a 30-yard field goal with 7:41 left in the first half to put NewCath up 3-0 for the only score of the first half.
The Thoroughbreds scored about three minutes into the second half. Sutkamp scored on a 13-yard dive to put NewCath up 10-0. Smith took a screen pass 27 yards on the drive.
NewCath then found the end zone again with 1:13 left in the third. Enslen got behind the defense for a 54-yard score putting NewCath up 16-0.
“I saw the safety cheat over when we were bunched,” Enslen said. “I told the coaches I saw it. They called the right play and I was wide open.”
The Thoroughbreds added their final touchdown in the fourth quarter. Donnelly faked an out route then darted up the field for a 34-yard touchdown to give NewCath a 22-0 advantage.
Lloyd Memorial averted the shutout later in the quarter. Molitor found Eric Brunner for a 67-yard pass before Riddle hauled in a 15-yard touchdown on fourth down.
“We just blew the coverages,” Wagner said. “That’s the stuff we have to work on. If we play smart football, the zero stays on the board. That’s what we strive for all the time.”
Lloyd Memorial also turned the ball over twice losing 2-of-4 fumbles. John Harris recovered one of those fumbles for NewCath.
Bye week next:
The Thoroughbreds take their bye week this week before battling Newport on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. The Wildcats beat Pendleton County, 21-6 on Friday for their first win of the year. Newport (1-4) takes on Bishop Brossart on Friday in its first district contest.
“There’s plenty of stuff for us to work on,” Wagner said. “We’ll start getting ready for Newport. We’re awful young and it shows at times. Even with our older kids, it’s the first time playing (on varsity).”
The Thoroughbreds have won 14 in a row over the Wildcats in the Firemen’s Bell game. NewCath last lost to Newport , 42-0 in 1999. The Thoroughbreds won last year’s game 49-0. Newport has a new head coach in Matthew Schmitz.