By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds football team can easily add this clause to the old saying, “Winning is contagious.”
Shutting out second-round Class 2A playoff opponents is also contagious.
The Thoroughbreds did that for the third straight year and fifth time since 2004 with a 36-0 blanking of the Walton-Verona Bearcats on Friday at Newport Stadium. The 8-4 Thoroughbreds advanced to their 14th consecutive regional title game as a result.
“This was the best game we’ve had so far other than that one drive where we had some penalties,” said Dan Wagner, NewCath Head Coach. “All you want to do is try to keep getting better. I said from the beginning that it’s amazing that you don’t have to tell these kids to work hard. We go out and off they go. It’s all a credit to the seniors.”
NewCath blanked Covington Holy Cross (52-0) last year in the second round and Lloyd Memorial (49-0) the year before. The other two second-round shutouts came in 2007, also against Holy Cross (28-0) and in 2004 against Fairview (42-0).
NewCath has not lost in the second round of the playoffs since 1999. That came in the form of a 28-6 loss to Bellevue.
The Thoroughbreds also recorded their third shutout of the season. They blanked Bishop Brossart (41-0) and Covington Holy Cross (48-0) in district action during the regular season.
The Thoroughbreds dominated the line of scrimmage against the Bearcats (9-3). NewCath gained 492 yards of total offense and 16 first downs on 50 plays to 168 yards and eight first downs on 55 plays for Walton-Verona.
Defensively, NewCath focused on Walton-Verona junior running back Mason Compton. He finished with 100 yards rushing on 26 carries.
“I can live with that,” Wagner said. “We stuck them pretty hard. In the first quarter, we roughed the kicker and gave them a few more downs but after that, we stopped them and they really didn’t get close (to scoring). I’m happy with the way they performed (defensively).”
NewCath did most of its damage on the ground rushing the ball 40 times for 372 yards. Senior quarterback Mac Franzen led the way gaining 179 yards on 12 carries to go with two touchdowns and sophomore Jacob Smith had 16 carries for 145 yards and a score.
“The offensive line played really well,” said Dave Schneider, NewCath Offensive Coordinator. “They had a really nice week of practice and they’re starting to gel. We ran a trap several times and they did a nice job executing the trap. It will be interesting to see how we progress as teams start to get better.”
Franzen also completed 6-of-10 passes for 120 yards. He completed a 12-yard score to Brandon Gray to give NewCath the only touchdown it needed in the second quarter.
But Franzen broke loose for a 94-yard touchdown run later in the quarter. That gave the Thoroughbreds a 14-0 lead after John Caudill made the second of four extra-point attempts.
The Thoroughbreds added to their lead in the third quarter. Jack Sutkamp scored from a yard out and Franzen scored on a 20-yard scamper to put NewCath up 29-0.
“They definitely trust (Franzen),” Schneider said. “He is our leader. He’s done a nice job maturing into that position. It took a while. But he’s done a nice job.”
NewCath scored one more time in the fourth quarter. Smith scored on a 9-yard run.
Off to Warsaw:
NewCath hopes to capture its 9th Region crown since 2000 on Friday at Gallatin County.
The Wildcats downed Carroll County, 49-26 to make it to the regional title game for the first time in school history with a school-record 10-2 record. They are in their eighth season of varsity football and had just one playoff win prior to this year. They moved into Class 2A in 2011.
“They run a Tony Franklin (Spread) system,” Wagner said. “It similar to what Bellevue runs so we have to get prepared. It’s the first team that we’ve seen throw the ball (a lot) in a while.”
The Thoroughbreds have only faced the Wildcats twice in school history and they happened to be in the first round of the playoffs the previous two years. NewCath won last year’s game 49-13 after beating the Wildcats, 56-0 two years ago.
Gallatin County does like to throw the ball. Quarterback Austin Chapman had completed 92-of-176 passes for 1,930 yards in 11 games for the District 5 champions, who only beat one-win Holy Cross, 26-19 in the first round of the playoffs.
His leading target has been Nate McCoy. McCoy has 47 catches for 1,062 yards and 13 touchdowns in the first 11 games.
The Wildcats have had three players rush for more than 355 yards. Chris Brown leads the way with 869 yards and 11 touchdowns.
NewCath is a perfect 12-0 all-time against teams from District 5. The Thoroughbreds have never played Trimble County.