By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matter Sports Reporter
INDEPENDENCE – The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds needed to control the line of scrimmage in order to have a chance Friday.
Instead, the host Simon Kenton Pioneers did that in a 30-7 non-district victory here. The Thoroughbreds (1-3) have dropped three in a row to bigger schools for the second straight year and Simon Kenton remained undefeated at 4-0.
Simon Kenton outgained NewCath, 335-137 in total offense, including 237-107 through the air. Pioneer quarterback Brenan Kuntz completed 19-of-29 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He often hurt NewCath when he broke outside containment.
“That was absolutely a big part of the game,” said Dan Wagner, NewCath Head Coach. “We spent a lot of time on the field defensively and you can’t let a kid of that caliber have that much time and make that many plays or he’s going to hurt you and he did.”
Kuntz completed most of his passes to senior wide receiver Grant Wassom. Wassom had seven catches for 123 yards. Sophomore Dillion Powell led the Pioneers with 13 rushes for 79 yards.
It did not help that NewCath played without several key players in the loss. Senior offensive and defensive lineman Stephen Brooks, senior offensive lineman/defensive end Matt Lenz, junior offensive/defensive lineman Jacob Wieland, senior and sophomore defensive end/wide receiver Luke Kues did not play and Wagner said they’ll probably be out next week. That left NewCath down to its fourth-string center.
“(Simon Kenton) is just bigger and stronger than us up front,” Wagner said. “We have to get better. We’re banged up and playing a lot of young kids on the offensive line. Our kids know we’re in a tough hole. We’ll keep positive and keep working hard. We don’t know what else to do.”
NewCath did not do much offensively until its second to last possession. Quarterback Mac Franzen completed 11-of-26 passes for 107 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Gray caught two passes for 47 yards to lead the Thoroughbreds. No NewCath player rushed for more than 24 yards.
Simon Kenton Head Coach Jeff Marksberry said the staff’s big concerns defensively were containing Franzen on scrambles up the middle and the Thoroughbred bubble screens. The Pioneers contained both.
“They (Pioneer defenders) were physical and ran to the ball well,” Marksberry said. “It looked like they knew what NewCath was going to do. They prepared well this week and you could tell.”
Penalties kept the Pioneers from more scores. Simon Kenton had eight for 45 yards to NewCath’s two for 10 years. The Pioneers had five false start penalties for 25 yards in the first half. That put them in fourth-and-long on several drives inside the NewCath 20 that they did not convert.
“The sad thing is I think we’d been penalized three times in our first three games,” Marksberry said. “We’d been playing really clean. I don’t know what the deal was. I know we weren’t very crisp in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. I tell the kids all the time you’re going to play like you practice. I hope (Friday) illustrated that. I hope they saw that and will take that to heart.”
Defensively, NewCath sacked Kuntz three times. Jack Sutkamp, Jacob Smith and Kalvin Moore recorded one each. Smith also recovered a Simon Kenton fumble in the end zone.
Simon Kenton led 8-0 after the first quarter. The Pioneers scored just 2:01 into the game when Kuntz completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Wassom before Powell completed the two-point pass to Logan Winkler out of the swinging gate formation.
The Pioneers extended the margin to 16-0 in the second quarter. Powell hauled in a 5-yard pass in the left flat for the score with 3:28 left in the half and Powell added the two-point run.
Simon Kenton then looked to use its depth to put the game away in the second half. The Pioneers do not have players going both directions while the Thoroughbreds do.
Powell extended the Simon Kenton lead to 23-0 just 1:35 into the second half and Tyler Smith added the extra point before the Pioneers made it 30-0 with 7:53 remaining. Kuntz completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Heflin and Smith added the extra point after Simon Kenton intercepted a NewCath attempted screen pass.
The Thoroughbreds did avert their first shutout since a 45-0 loss to Ryle on Sept. 12, 2009 with a late touchdown. Franzen completed a 34-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Gray and Wyatt Boberg added the extra-point kick.
NewCath finishes its run of three straight games against Class 6A, District 6 opponents next week with a trip to Dixie Heights on Friday at 7 p.m. The Colonels (2-1) have won two in a row after beating Cincinnati Turpin, 38-7 on Friday.