NKY football previews: After bye weeks, Beechwood tries to get back, TMU hosts NAIA’s No. 3 team

Dan Weber
Dan Weber
Dan Weber is LINK nky's sports editor-at-large. Contact him at [email protected]

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Another weekend of football in Northern Kentucky is here. Take a look at the games:

Dixie Heights (2-3) at Beechwood (4-1), 7:30 p.m.: Forget about fighting for Dixie Highway supremacy between these neighboring programs. They’re fighting to survive, to come back. Beechwood is not only at home but obviously has less far to come with only the last-game loss to Covington Catholic as a blemish on its last 28 games. But losing the state’s longest winning streak wasn’t pleasant nor was the physical beat down from the Class 5A Colonels who simply would not let Beechwood run its offense. But the good news is that the Tigers had their bye at just the right time last week and as unlikely as it might sound, improved from No. 2 in Class 2A to No. 1 this week in the RPI ratings moving ahead of unbeaten Mayfield. Class 6 A Dixie Heights has a whole different set of problems after giving up 47 and 59 points to CovCath and Highlands, respectively, in their last two games. And now they face a Beechwood team hungry to prove that last loss was not who they are.

Newport (2-4) at Bellevue (0-5), 7 p.m.: The schedule hasn’t been kind to a Newport team that won two of its first three only to lose close one-score games to Holmes and Cincinnati Prep Academy and then to archrival Newport Central Catholic by two TDs. But getting a shot at its next-door neighbor, Bellevue’s battling young’uns with all those freshmen playing key roles on an undermanned varsity roster, could be just the answer for first-year coach Ryan Hahn’s Wildcats. As for Bellevue, which is celebrating Homecoming and the 73rd renewal of a series Newport leads 39-32-1, all this early experience for the young guys of coach David Brausch should pay off down the road. We will note that after having been shut out their first three games, the Tigers have scored 26 points in the last two.

Covington Catholic (5-1) at Boone County (3-3), 6 p.m.:
They’re getting an early start in this district showdown out Florence way. For the visiting Colonels, No. 2 in the state in Class 5A, it’s another chance to show off a developing defense that gave up 61 points in the first two games and just 41 in the last four. Tate Kruer and Aiden Jones, with 40 tackles apiece, lead a hard-nosed CovCath defense with 11 of Jones’ tackles going for losses. On offense, look for Evan Pitzer throwing it and Owen Leen running it for CovCath. As for the Rebels, Bryson Warner’s bunch had it going with a couple of early close wins before dropping one 17-14 to rival Conner last week.

Walton-Verona (4-2) at Carroll County (3-3), 7:30 p.m.: The Class 2A, District 5 showdown comes early for these teams with the Bearcats traveling to Carrollton with a need to show they can tighten down a defense that gave up 40 points to NewCath and 35 to Boone if they plan to repeat with another district title here. Quarterback Jackson Smith — and his 169 pass-run yards a game — is the man for the Bearcats who have a slight edge in the RPI over a Carroll County team that opened with three losses only to string three wins together going into this one.

Highlands (4-2) at Conner (2-4), 7 p.m.: This Class 5A district matchup in Hebron will showcase a high-flying Highlands offense against a hang-tough Conner defense that limited Boone to 14 points last week in that 17-14 win. The problem is this Bluebirds’ offense is of a whole different order averaging 41 points a game in its last four straight wins including 57 against Ryle and 59 against Dixie Heights with Brody Benke throwing it and Charlie Noon catching it and running it and returning it. Getting its offense going will be the key for the Cougars here.

Rowan County (2-4) at Holmes (4-1), 7:30 p.m.: The homestanding Bulldogs look to be in good shape in their Class 4A district opener with Rowan County coming in off a home district loss to Scott, 37-34. But the Bulldogs can always have their moments so this will be a good test for Ben Nevels’ guys to see if they can keep their eye on the ball. They have the RPI lead by plenty going into district play and if they can keep tailback Curtez Hill and his 166.2 yards rushing and two TDs a game going, they should be able to keep it. And keep the district showdown here in Northern Kentucky against an improving Scott team.

Montgomery County (2-3) at Lloyd Memorial (3-2), 7:30 p.m.
: With impressive wins over Boone County (36-15) and Bishop Brossart (40-3), the Class 2A Juggernauts keep their four-game homestand going against a Class 5A Montgomery County team making the journey up from Mt. Sterling. Look for Lloyd to keep it on the ground (the Juggs have 197 rushes against just 21 pass attempts this season) and look for tailback Kaiden Zulager to get most of those. He has 76 carries for 592 yards (118.4 a game) and eight TDs. QB Isaiah Sebastian will get most of the rest with just under 50 yards a game on the ground but nine Juggs in all average at least 10 yards a game on the ground.

Ludlow (2-3) at Mason County (5-0), 7:30 p.m.: Big challenge here for the Class 1A Panthers who have already traveled to Warsaw and Paris (in Kentucky, not Europe) and now head to Maysville and an unbeaten Class 3A Royals team that has it rolling after an opening 48-6 romp over Newport. It’s safe to say that Ludlow will depend on two-way QB threat Jaxson Rice’s 142 pass-run yards a game to keep the outmanned Panthers in this one before they return to Class A play next week.

Bishop Brossart (4-2) at Nicholas County (6-0), 7:30 p.m.: You get the sense that these teams don’t much like each other as district rivals especially after Brossart’s district title last season. For the young Mustangs, it’s the first of back-to-back district challenges against unbeaten opponents (Bracken County next week) that will make or break their season. With QB Keegan Gulley sidelined since the Dayton game, it’s been a bit of a tough slog for Brossart with 11-8 and 10-9 wins to their credit over Holy Cross and Ludlow respectively. Nicholas County hasn’t exactly played a murderer’s row schedule so this one could be interesting.

Harrison County (2-4) at Scott (3-3), 7:30 p.m.: Here come the Eagles. With three wins in their last four outings and 87 points in their last two games – both wins – the guys from Taylor Mill have to be feeling much better about themselves these days. Scott’s RPI, even with a win in its only Class 4A district game, is barely ahead of that of a Harrison County team that’s 0-1 in the district. But if the Eagles don’t suffer a misstep in winnable district games like Harrison and Boyd County, both at home, they’ll be setting up another Northern Kentucky district showdown when they face off against their Covington neighbor Oct. 21 at Tom Ellis Field.

Corbin (5-0) at Simon Kenton (3-2); 7:30 p.m.: It’s been an interesting season for the Class 6A Pioneers, who lost out on a Homecoming game last weekend to a late-canceling Connersville (Ind.) team and now face an unbeaten Class 4A Corbin Redhound team. The good news for Simon Kenton is that after being awarded a 1-0 forfeit win by the KHSAA, their RPI rating has them at No. 5 in Kentucky and No. 1 in 6A in Northern Kentucky. Even better news would be getting either of their injured stars – quarterback Chase Crone or tailback Jayden Lawson – back to finish out the season. Freshman Tucker Ober has filled in admirably at QB while Chase Williams continues to catch the football for the Pioneers. QB Kade Elam’s 195 yards a game passing and running top the Corbin attack.

Ryle (3-2) at Louisville St. Xavier (4-1), 7 p.m.: From the challenge of stopping the wide-open Highlands offense (they didn’t, giving up 57 points), the Ryle Raiders return to Class 6A in a non-district game against a Louisville St. Xavier team coming off a tough 13-8 win over archrival Louisville Trinity. St. X hasn’t lost to a Kentucky team in a while with its only loss this season, same as CovCath’s, to Cincinnati Elder. The weird thing is that in its three previous wins over Conner (21-7), Cooper (13-10) and Daviess County (23-7), the Raiders gave up a mere 24 points. And then the Highlands game. The good news there is that Ryle rallied for 46 points on offense, double their previous season’s high. So there’s that.

SATURDAY

COLLEGE


Lindsey Wilson (4-0) at Thomas More (2-2), 7 p.m.: Coming off a bye week and an opening Mid-South Conference 44-36 win at Campbellsville, the Thomas More Saints have another big-time challenge. They didn’t come out of the first two with a win, although they didn’t do all that badly either – losing to a tough Bluefield team 42-35 in the opener and then at Division I Duquesne, 31-14, sandwiched around a 31-28 come-from-behind win at Kentucky Christian. And while Lindsey Wilson is the No. 3 NAIA team in the nation, the Blue Raiders’ 21-12 defensive win last week against Campbellsville was comparable to TMU’s 44-36 offensive win the week before at Campbellsville. What wasn’t comparable was the 47-0 beatdown Lindsey Wilson inflicted on TMU exactly a year ago. Hard to imagine reminders of that game – for good and for bad – haven’t been a major part of TMU’s practice preparation work these past two weeks. Hard to get that kind of shellacking out of your head if you’re TMU. But no way can you get ready to beat LW if you don’t. It’s a fine line for Coach Chris Norwell & Co. to pull this one off.

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