By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds football team received the test it expected from the rival Beechwood Tigers on Saturday and passed it.
The Thoroughbreds won their fifth in a row and second straight in the great series, 34-31 on a John Caudill 25-yard field goal with 12.4 seconds left in the game. Caudill made all four extra-point attempts and 2-of-3 field-goal tries.
Both teams are 6-4 overall. The loss snapped a three-game Beechwood winning streak. The Tigers still lead the all-time series, 23-14.
“We’re starting to play pretty well,” said Dan Wagner, NewCath Head Coach. “But we have a long way to go yet. You just want to keep getting better and better. That was a huge game for us. It actually represents our whole season – start off rough and finish pretty well.”
The huge difference in the game came in the running game. Both teams ran the ball 35 times each. The Thoroughbreds gained 213 for an average of just more than six a touch and the Tigers gained just 95 averaging about 2.7 a carry.
Sophomore Jacob Smith led the Thoroughbreds gaining 93 yards on 13 carries. Quarterback Mac Franzen followed with 63 yards on 10 carries and Jack Sutkamp had 45 yards on eight attempts.
NewCath outgained Beechwood, 397-312 in total offense. The Tigers won the passing game just 217-184. Franzen completed 15-of-36 attempts for 184 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Tommy Donnelly and Brandon Gray had five catches each for 63 and 46 yards respectively. Tyler Lyon added two catches for 28 yards and a score.
“We figured they’d try to throw the ball and (the Tigers) tried,” Wagner said. “We really hadn’t seen a team try to throw the ball in a long time. It’s amazing how these games come down to the wire. This time, we were lucky enough to win it.”
Tiger sophomore quarterback Kyle Fieger completed 18-of-30 passes for 217 yards. Joe Studer led the Tigers with four catches for 52 yards and 17 carries for 72 yards. Jaylen Hayden followed with two catches for 52 yards for Beechwood.
NewCath lost three fumbles early in the game and found itself down 21-0 as a result. Fieger completed an 11-yarder to Jonathon Stokes with 10:32 left and a 34-yarder to Hayden with 9:32 to go. Fieger then added a 7-yard score with about 6:30 left in the game to put the Tigers up 21-0.
But the Throughbreds rallied and trimmed the lead to 21-14 after the first quarter. Smith broke free for a 52-yard score with 4:53 left in the quarter and Lyon blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone with 3:12 left in the quarter.
“We could have very easily just rolled over and mailed it in,” Wagner said. “We told them at halftime you just can’t play this team without emotion. When you don’t, that first six minutes happens. When you do play with emotion, that last quarter and a half does. Somewhere in between there, you have to be able to turn it on.”
Miles Sletto ended the Thoroughbred run with a 23-yard field goal with 9:19 left in the second. Beechwood led 24-14 at that point.
But Lyon struck again with a 14-yard pass from Franzen with 6:11. The Thoroughbreds then took the lead at 28-24 with 11 seconds left in the half when Sutkamp scored from a yard out.
The scoring simmered in the second half. But NewCath extended its lead to 31-24 with 1:14 left in the third when Caudill hit a 25-yard field goal.
The Tigers recorded their only score with 7:45 left in the fourth quarter. Studer scored from a yard out to tie the game at 31.
First Round of 2A Playoffs:
The Thoroughbreds take on the Owen County Rebels (2-8) in the first round of the playoffs Saturday at 1 p.m. at Newport Stadium. The only two wins for the Rebels came at home against two 0-10 teams. They beat Thomas Nelson, 45-0 on Sept. 20 and Trimble County, 19-6 to make the playoffs on Oct. 11.
NewCath has taken care of business in the first two rounds of the playoffs 13 straight years dating back to 1999. The Thoroughbreds beat Gallatin County, 49-14 in this round last year.