Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
A rivalry game is probably what these two teams needed coming off losses Friday.
The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds and Campbell County Camels meet for the 38th time in Alexandria in a battle of 1-1 squads. NewCath lost to Cooper, 31-22 in the Skyline Crosstown Showdown and Campbell County lost at Highlands, 50-8.
The Thoroughbreds lead the all-time series, 26-11, but would love to quickly put away the tough memories from last year’s 42-16 defeat in what turned out to be their worst loss of the season. Campbell County quarterback Tyler Durham ran roughshod on the banged-up Thoroughbreds to the tune of 219 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns against a NewCath defense missing injured linebackers Brady Thacker and Jack Sutkamp.
That loss turned out to be the second of three straight defeats. But NewCath rebounded to win their fifth state championship while Campbell County won the Class 6A, District 6 championship for the second straight year before losing 29-21 to Simon Kenton in the second round of the playoffs.
Durham graduated. But new Camel quarterback Avery Wood has shown some promise in Campbell County’s spread offense. Wood has rushed for 94 yards on 20 carries for an average of 4.7 touch and completed 23-of-49 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown. Camel County has rushed for 545 yards and passed for 350 and have allowed 381 yards rushing and 473 passing.
“We have to play tough, responsibility defense,” said Dan Wagner, NewCath head coach. “You can’t try to do too much and take care of your job. This is why we play these teams. It’s the only way we’re going to get better.”
Wood’s top targets have been Nate Hess and Jake Zabonick. Hess has 10 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown with Zabonick grabbing eight balls for 73 yards. Wood completed a lot of short five to 10-yard passes to Zabonick near the sidelines against Highlands.
Alex Howard leads Campbell County in the rushing department. Howard has 140 yards rushing on 25 carries with two touchdowns for an average of 5.6 yards per touch.
“We spent a lot of time Saturday with our kids reviewing the film and learning from the mistakes we made,” said Stephen Lickert, Campbell County head coach of the Highlands game. “Our kids are intently focused on correcting our mistakes. Our kids are used to having short memories and not dwelling on the past.”
The Thoroughbred 4-4 defense knows it needs to tighten up against the run as teams have rushed for 498 yards against them. Ashland’s Quentin Baker ran for 236 yards and Cooper’s Avery Bricking ran for 125.
The Thoroughbreds are rotating in a lot of players on the defensive line. But there is some youth and inexperience on the defensive side for NewCath. Opponents have passed for 261 yards against the Thoroughbreds.
“We just need to make plays,” Wagner said. “We’re missing tackles. Kids come through unblocked and we don’t make the play. We’ll go back to working hard containing and tackling. We have a lot of work to do defensively.”
Sutkamp leads NewCath with 32 tackles defensively and Stephen Brooks ranks second with 20. Kole Zenni and Brandon Gray have recovered two fumbles each for NewCath.
The Thoroughbreds have run the ball for 378 yards and passed for 191 yards offensively. Quarterback Mac Franzen and running back Jacob Smith lead the way with 137 and 102 yards rushing respectively. Franzen found a lot of real estate against Ashland in the middle of the field.
“Franzen is an impressive athlete who can beat you with his arm and his legs,” Lickert said. “We must be very disciplined in doing our jobs and making sure we contain him.”
Franzen has completed 11-of-22 passes for 191 yards. Tommy Donnelly, Smith and Michael Runyon have three catches each for 75, 52 and 36 yards respectively.
Campbell County showed some vulnerabilities defensively in its 3-3 stack defense against Highlands. The Bluebirds gashed the Camels for 399 yards of total offense, including 318 through the air.
Senior defensive lineman Patrick Berkemeyer leads the Camel defense. He recorded the lone sack for Campbell County in the loss at Highlands.
The Camels have a new home stadium this year by the high school just outside of Alexandria. Last year’s game took place at the Pyramid at the Campbell County Middle School. Game time is 7 p.m.
Meek not on Roster:
Would-be senior defensive lineman Ross Meek did not return this year for the Thoroughbreds. Meek finished second on the team last year with 103 tackles.
Wagner did not elaborate on the situation. He just pointed out that Meek is no longer with the team, but pretty much everyone else returned.