Both teams tried to go on long and sustained drives running the ball out of spread offenses.
The Conner Cougars did it better in a 38-17 win over the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds on Homecoming.
Conner outgained NewCath, 401-287 including a near-double 256-132 on the ground. The Cougars pretty much dictated things when they took a two-touchdown lead in the second quarter.
“We did some great things. We grew up a bit,” said Dave Trosper, Conner head coach. “We got better. We still have areas we need to get better in. But that was a great win.”
Quarterback Wyatt Hatfield directed the Conner offense by completing 7-of-10 passes for 145 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and rushing for a team-high 92 yards. Hatfield did a lot of damage outside the pocket, running some option and even threw the ball a couple times inches from the line of scrimmage.
Conner blocked well up front allowing a number of skill position players to aid in the balanced attack. Emmanuel Ekpe ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns with Cordion Abernathy adding 45 yards and one touchdown.
“It has helped us develop so much,” said Gavin Freese, Conner center. “We have this new strength and conditioning coach and he’s just been drilling us constantly. We’re just really in shape. Every time we go to the line, we’re not tired.”
Hatfield hit 6-foot-6-inch tight end Ben Fay three times in the first half for 77 yards. The Homecoming King’s 13-yard touchdown catch put the Cougars up for good at 7-3 with 2:04 left in the first quarter. Elian Ruzindana added two catches for 51 yards.
Newport Central Catholic running back Demetrick Welch made things happen when the Thoroughbreds got him the ball, rushing for 105 yards and a touchdown and catching four passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Welch caught a pass in the left flat in the second quarter and took it 71 yards to paydirt before scoring from six yards out in the fourth quarter.
“The thing for us the last couple years is we’ve played a soft schedule,” said Stephen Lickert, NewCath head coach. “We were 8-2, 9-1 going into the playoffs. Then we get hammered when we play good teams in the playoffs because we hadn’t played good teams. We knew when we made our schedule these first five games were games we could win. But we also knew we could possibly lose. Hopefully, this game can make us better.”
NewCath opened the game with a promising drive, but it stalled in the Conner red zone, Owen Roeder booting a 37-yard field goal to give the Thoroughbreds their lone lead of 3-0 with 5:11 left in the first quarter.
“We have physicality. We just took over,” said Adam Duncan, Conner inside linebacker. “We just had a couple missed tackles. But at the end, we finished it up. We’re here to be reckoned with.”
All 24 points in the second quarter came in the final six minutes. After Andrew Herron kicked a 30-yard field goal, Conner earned a two-touchdown lead when Hatfield found Chase Bailey from 11 yards out, faking the option then throwing to Bailey at the last second.
“It’s all reads. We’ve been doing it in the past,” Hatfield said. “I think I’m well with it. The offense is flowing. My line is always blocking well for me. I didn’t run as well as I usually do. But I’ll get that back up next week.”
After Welch’s run, Conner responded when Ekpe ran it in from six yards out to go up 24-10 with 1:13 left.
The Cougars looked to pull away in the third quarter when Abernathy ran it in from one yard out to go up 31-10 with 5:11 left in the third quarter. Conner was looking to go up four scores, but Welch intercepted a pass and had a dynamic 74-yard run to set up his touchdown run.
“We made some mistakes,” Trosper said. “NewCath played great defense. It’s a little bit of a different defense with the 3-3 then the outside backer stuff with how they penetrate and get up-field trying to get the linebackers free. It gives us the opportunity to see different stunts and see different things that people are doing to us. We want to build on that so we’re prepped for any defense when district time comes around.”
Conner finished the scoring with 2:30 left when Ekpe scored from 17 yards out.
Conner plays host to Simon Kenton (1-2) on Friday and NewCath goes to Campbell County (1-3). Both games start at 7 p.m.
COUGARS 38, THOROUGHBREDS 17
NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC — 3-7-0-7 — 17
CONNER — 7-17-7-7 — 38
(NC) Owen Roeder 37-yard field goal (5:11)
(C) Ben Fay 13-yard pass from Wyatt Hatfield (2:04) Herron kick
(C) Herron 30-yard field goal (5:53)
(C) Chase Bailey 11-yard pass from Hatfield (3:30) Herron kick
(NC) Demetrick Welch 71-yard pass from Kolton Smith (2:39) Roeder kick
(C) Emmanuel Ekpe 6-run (1:13) Herron kick
(C) Cordion Abernathy 1-yard run (5:11) Herron kick
(NC) Welch 6-yard run (8:16) Roeder kick
(C) Ekpe 17-yard run (2:30) Herron kick
Passing Yards: Newport Central Catholic 155 (Smith 11/22), Conner 145 (Hatfield 7/10)
Rushing Yards: Newport Cental Catholic 132 (Welch 9-105, Cole 8-20, Smith 6-7), Conner 256 (Hatfield 15-92, Ekpe 10-83, Abernathy 14-45, Bailey 2-33, Herron 1-3)
Receiving: Newport Central Catholic 155 (Welch 4-120, Cole 3-21, Doeker 2-15, Ford 1-8, Collopy 1-19), Conner 145 (Fay 3-77, Elian Ruzindana 2-51, Bailey 1-11, Caplinger 1-6)
Turnovers: Newport Central Catholic 1, Conner 1
Penalties: Newport Central Catholic 5-38, Conner 3-25
Records: Newport Central Catholic 2-2, Conner 3-1