|Allen Ramsey. Newport Central Catholic's Erik Anderson goes up for a catch in Friday's game against Newport. Anderson leads the Thoroughbreds with three interceptions.|
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
Both football teams may be focused more on themselves than the opponent on Thursday.
The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (2-4 overall, 2-0 district) enter the game in the driver’s seat for their 10th consecutive district championship following Friday’s 22-17 win over the Newport Wildcats in District 6-2A action. They moved to 26-0 in district action since 2007 and are heavy favorite’s to extend the mark to 27-0 against the visiting Bishop Brossart Mustangs (1-5, 0-3) at 7 p.m. at Newport Stadium.
A look on the sidelines tells that reason. The Thoroughbreds have 44 seniors, juniors and sophomores listed on the roster while the Mustangs will dress 23 in all four grades.
“Football is a numbers game. Sometimes I don’t know if fans realize it, but if you’re playing team with 80 guys and you have 40, you’re at a big disadvantage,” said Dan Wagner, NewCath Head Coach. “It’s the same thing here. We have to get after it and take care of what we can take care of like we always say. We think we’re making strides each week and that’s our goal again.”
Coaching continuity has been a big key to the Thoroughbreds’ success over the years. They’ve had just three head coaches since 1966 while the Mustangs have had three head coaches in the last three years alone.
Paul Wiggins took over the program a matter of weeks before the season moving up from the middle school program. He was able to convince some former players at the junior high level to come out bringing the total number of players up from last year’s 18 total.
“I like that despite being the smallest 2A team in the state and playing in the best 2A district, these boys made a commitment to fight the fights in front of them,” Wiggins said. “I only ask them to put their best foot forward and challenge themselves.”
Newport Central Catholic has won all three meetings between the two teams. The Thoroughbreds have shut out the Mustangs by a combined 161-0 including 41-0 last year.
The Mustangs’ lone win came against Bracken County on Sept. 5. They have not come within 21 points of any of the district opponents. But they did score 28 against Lloyd Memorial on Saturday.
Bishop Brossart operates out of the spread and I-formations offensively. Senior quarterback Clay Kramer recently returned from injury for the Mustangs. He’s completed 15-of-36 passes for 315 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Senior Jarred Martin has 11 catches for 113 yards for Bishop Brossart.
Junior Frank Cetrulo leads the Mustangs on the ground and junior Logan Schoulthies is second. Cetrulo has 49 carries for 295 yards and two touchdowns with Schoulthies going for 184 yards on 43 carries and two scores.
NewCath will counter with its vaunted 4-4 defense. Junior linebacker Kobe Tallon leads the Thoroughbreds with 67 tackles and junior defensive back Erik Anderson has a team-high three interceptions often drawing the opponents’ top wide receiver.
“As a defensive end, you just have to play your position,” said Matt Frey, NewCath Senior defensive end. “You have to make sure you’re not running in circles. You have to go as hard as you can against the guy across you every play because you don’t know what play it’s going to be unless you study film.”
NewCath has allowed 1,085 yards rushing and 905 passing mostly against the bigger schools in the first four games. Offensively, the Thoroughbreds have rushed for 441 yards and passed for 717.
The Thoroughbreds run a spread offense. Junior Jacob Smith has turned things up lately running the ball 103 times for 450 yards and six touchdowns. Junior slotback John Harris has had some big carries lately going for 79 yards on 25 attempts and three touchdowns.
NewCath sophomore quarterback Patrick Henschen continues to develop. He has completed 49-of-81 passes for 502 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Senior Brandon Gray continues to lead NewCaht with 23 catches for 208 yards.
“We need to execute and perform better,” said Dave Schneider, NewCath Offensive Coordinator. “We’re not doing the little things well. We left way too many points on the field against Newport. That’s as simple as it gets.”
Those things come in a variety. The Thoroughbreds had people out of position at times against the Wildcats and had two men in motion once.
The Mustangs play a four-man front and switch things up with the linebackers and defensive backs. Senior linebacker Justin Schack owns a team-high 94 tackles and junior Craig Pfefferman has the team’s lone interception.
“It’s difficult to prepare for arguably the best team in 2A,” Wiggins said. “We try to coach them to see the world through their individual responsibility whether it be offense or defense. With a team like NCC, you have to look beyond the jersey and play the individual.”
Bishop Brossart moves down to 1A next year while NewCath stays in 2A. The Mustangs will be in a district with Berea, Paris, Bracken County and Nicholas County.