Story Matters

Story Matters

THE Official HHS Football Site

Thursday, November 27, 2014

NewCath travels long way for state semifinal game

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

History may favor the visitors.

But the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds football team (7-5) still has to go on a long road trip into the mountains of eastern Kentucky and prove it. The District 6 champion Throughbreds battle the District 8 champion Shelby Valley Wildcats (11-2) from in the Class 2A semifinals on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Shelby Valley is located near Pikeville. The schools are approximately 200 miles and four hours apart.

“It’s business,” said Dan Wagner, NewCath Head Coach. “We’ve done this enough that we know how to handle ourselves. We’ve made it out what we want to do. We’ll leave around (Noon). We’ll feed them a banana, fruit or Gatorade when we get down there to tide them over. We’ll probably stop at a rest stop 2.5 hours down there for 15-30 minutes, then get back on the bus, do a little walk-through and get ready.”

Shelby Valley has experienced a remarkable turnaround under first-year Head Coach Eric Ratliff. Their three playoff wins are one more than they’ve won since at least 1997. They had won just two playoff games between 1998 and last year with the last one coming in 2009.

Shelby Valley won the fourth region that the Somerset Briar Jumpers had won the previous three years. But the Briar Jumpers fell to a winless 0-10 campaign this year.

The experience factor heavily favors the Thoroughbreds. They have won 12 consecutive state semifinals contests, including nine since 2000. They’ve also gone 4-5 in state championship games during that time frame. They’ve also played the tougher schedule.

Defensively, NewCath’s 4-4 defense will take on a Shelby Valley Double-Slot Wing-T offense that is run-oriented. The Wildcats have rushed for 4,027 yards and passes for just 459.

A pair of juniors have rushed for the majority of those yards. Fullback Chandler Rowe owns 1,805 yards on 268 carries and 26 touchdowns and tailback Kasey Tackett has 1,626 on 154 carries and 17 touchdowns. Wagner said Shelby Valley also runs senior Quinton Williams and sophomore Jordan Hampton to keep teams honest. They run behind an offensive line led by junior Jordan Belcher.

“Their offensive line is big. We’ve seen big lines all year,” Wagner said. “They play to their strength. They get after you and wear you down. We have our work cut out for us.”

The Thoroughbreds employ an aggressive defense led by junior linebacker Kobe Tallon with 135 tackles. Tallon said Rowe runs up the middle and Tackett likes to go outside.

“You have to watch the guard,” Tallon said. “He’ll take you to where the ball is. That’s all you have to do really because they like to pull with the guards. You have to contain (4) and we’ll be good from there.”

Shelby Valley does not throw the ball much. Junior quarterback Donavon Layne has completed just 36-of-73 passes for 459 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions. Junior Erik Anderson leads NewCath with four interceptions and Brandon Gray has three.

Teams in eastern Kentucky are not known for spreading the field. But the Wildcats have seen some spread teams in Somerset and Prestonsburg. They beat Prestonsburg, 20-14 in overtime to advance to the state semifinals.

Junior linebacker Trevor Wright leads the Wildcats with 153 tackles and junior defensive back Austin Elswick owns a team-high seven interceptions. NewCath Offensive Coordinator Dave Schneider also said to watch Tackett and senior defensie lineman Andrew Newsome.

The NewCath offensive line has played well lately. Junior running back Jacob Smith leads the Thoroughbreds with 1259 yards rushing on 199 carries and 22 touchdowns. John Harris has been contributing better lately with 254 yards on 51 carries and five scores.

Thoroughbred sophomore quarterback Patrick Henschen has completed 105-of-162 passes for 1,409 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. Gray has led the way for NewCath catching the ball with 35 catches for 363 yards and Nate Enslen has 28 for 503 yards and seven scores. Smith has added 23 receptions for 361 yards and three touchdowns.

“They have great size and are very aggressive. I don’t know that they’re extremely quick,” Schneider said. “Their front three are very aggressive. They get off the ball well so we’ll have to do a good job blocking.”

The other state semifinal pits defending state 2A champion Louisville DeSales (12-1) against Murray (9-4) at Louisville Southern. The winners play for the state championship on Dec. 5 at 3:30 p.m. EST at Western Kentucky University.

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