Friday night football previews: District openers, neighborhood rivalries lead the way

Newport Central Catholic's Luke Runyon runs the ball as the Thoroughbreds beat Holmes earlier this season. Photo by Brandon Wheeler | LINK nky

Let’s start with the negative news for the weekend. Simon Kenton will not host a Homecoming football game Friday after Connersville, Ind., cancelled on the Pioneers. So what to do? Too late to get a replacement football game so Simon Kenton AD Troy Roberts called Covington Catholic AD Tony Bacigalupo and asked if the Colonels could help out. Since CovCath was hosting Simon Kenton in soccer Saturday, they just moved that game’s day and date to Friday at Simon Kenton and the Homecoming festivities will go on. And they’ll get a nice crowd for the soccer match. Good job all around.

Another couple of negatives in terms of teams not playing this weekend: No game for Beechwood after losing the state’s longest win streak last week at CovCath. Great time for the bye here. And no game Saturday for Thomas More’s Saints after a comeback 44-36 road win last week at Campbellsville to even their record at 2-2. TMU will need the week off as they get ready to host the No. 3 NAIA team in the nation, Lindsey Wilson, next Saturday at 7 p.m.

As for the games that will go on Friday (for a second straight week, no Thursday games here):

Newport (2-3) at Newport Central Catholic (4-1) at CovCath, 7 p.m.: Interesting game here. Two homeless teams — after the condemnation of the Newport Stadium stands — face off in their neighborhood rivalry in a new neighborhood across the Licking River in Park Hills. NewCath’s host Class A Thoroughbreds have won four straight since an opening loss, while the visiting Class 2A Wildcats have had something of an up-and-down season. Both teams can air it out and both have defensive stars in the secondary in NewCath’s Luke Runyon and Newport’s Quincy Barber. But on offense, the Breds have been able to give the ball off to Demetrick Welch and get the kinds of ground yards that have been out of reach for the Wildcats.

Boone County (3-2) at Conner (1-4), 7 p.m.: Another of the many Boone County backyard brawls with an improving Class 5A Boone County Rebels team heading to Hebron for a district date with their 5A rivals – the tough-luck Cougars whose four losses have each been by two TD in a season that has seen their under-fire offense outscored 116-63 in those games. For Boone, the Jamarion Hocker to Tyler Whipple aerial combo is the big threat Conner must shut down. The Conner defense is led by Ben Fay’s 47 tackles.

Covington Catholic (4-1) at Cooper (2-2), 7 p.m.: Big, big district game for CovCath’s visiting Colonels in Union as their four-game winning streak has catapulted CovCath into the No. 2 spot overall in Class 5A. Keep winning and with a good Highlands team on the horizon in October, CovCath could remain in the top two in the RPI rankings and guarantee the Colonels could play at home all the way through the playoffs until the championship game. But Cooper, with wins over 6A teams Dixie Heights and Campbell County, and a close loss to 6A Ryle, is dangerous with Cam O’Hara throwing the ball for 187.2 yards a game. But does that play into the Colonels’ defensive strength and ability to get to the passer that they showed in a dominant 31-14 win over the two-time unbeaten state champs Beechwood. CovCath has a tough aerial combo of its own with 6-foot-4 junior Evan Pitzer throwing it to his tall target in tight end Willie Rodrigues. But the Colonels also can call on workhorse running back Owen Leen, who carried the ball 37 times in pounding away at the Beechwood defense.

Bracken County (4-0) at Dayton (2-3), 7:30 p.m.: Big home game for the Greendevils as they prepare to start Class A district play next week as they host the unbeaten Polar Bears, No. 2 in the RPI rankings in all of Class A. Will we see the Devils who won two straight to start the month or the Greenies who have lost the last two, scoring just a single TD each against Estill County and Lexington Sayre. Dayton’s Landyn Hopper has amassed 800 yards on the ground, nearly a nine-yard average, and he’ll have to dominate in this headliner between two Class A teams from neighboring districts.

Dixie Heights (2-2) at Highlands (3-2), 7 p.m.: The homestanding Bluebirds have really gotten it together on offense with 125 points in their last three straight wins over Campbell County, Raceland, and Ryle behind quarterback Brody Benke, do-everything Charlie Noon, running backs Cam Giesler and Dawson Hosea, and kicker Davis Burleigh. So how does a young Dixie team that has given up 41 points to Cooper and 47 to CovCath handle that? Well, the good news is they’ve had two weeks to figure it out with a bye last weekend. Whatever the Colonels do, they’ll do it behind QB Armani Gregg who averages more than 217 yards a game running and passing.

Holmes (3-1) at Holy Cross (1-4), 7 p.m.: Another backyard rivalry but this one will be played in both teams’ backyard as the Class 2A Indians head down the street from Latonia to Tom Ellis Field and a date with the 4A Bulldogs. Led by the 169.5 rushing yards a game by Curtez Hill, Holmes is coming off a couple of tough wins over Boone County (18-8) and Newport (32-28). Holy Cross, after an opening win against outmanned Bellevue, has been on the wrong end of a 117-41 scoreboard the last four games.

Bishop Brossart (3-2) at Ludlow (2-2), 7 p.m.: This non-district Class A contest is almost as close to a must-win for these teams as a district game would be. Brossart got waxed 40-3 by Class 2A Lloyd last week after barely surviving an 11-8 thriller the week before over Holy Cross. Ludlow, meanwhile, after two big wins to start the season, is coming off a pair of one-sided losses to downstate teams Paris and Carroll County. Who will get it going on offense in this one? Ludlow will depend on QB Jaxson Rice and his 140 yards a game running and passing while Brossart running back Evan Orth leads the Mustangs in rushing, receiving, and scoring.

Scott (2-3) at Rowan County (2-3), 7:30 p.m.: Last week’s 50-8 romp over Grant County should make Friday’s trip down to Morehead for this Class 4A district game a lot more pleasant for the young Eagles. No common opponents for these two so we have to wait until they start play in this far-flung district to figure out the matchups. Bennie Hill’s 140 yards and 1.4 TD a game lead the Eagles. On defense, nine Eagles led by Tim Stephenson’s 23, have recorded double-figure tackles.

Gallatin County (1-3) at Walton-Verona (3-2), 7:30 p.m.: Might be just the game the stumbling Bearcats need to open Class 2A district play after a pair of losses their last two times out against NewCath and Boone County. QB Jackson Smith, with 174 yards passing and running, leads the defending district champion Bearcats on offense. Jonathan Seibert, Christopher Harward, and Logan Ryan are the top tackers for the Bearcats.

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