By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
BOWLING GREEN – When they look back at this one, it will come down to their drives to end the first half and start the second one.
The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds did not convert on fourth down on both drives and it hurt them in a 34-26 loss to the Louisville DeSales Colts in the Class 2A state championship Saturday at Western Kentucky University. The Thoroughbreds (10-5) hoped for three championships in four years, but came up short. NewCath graduates 12 seniors from the team.
“You’re going to sit back and realize what you did,” said Dan Wagner, NewCath Head Coach. “You were on that field three times. Not many people can say that so be proud of that. It’s on deaf ears now because we’re all hurting. It’s not the way we wanted it to end. But sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to.”
NewCath is 5-7 in state championship games. The Thoroughbreds beat Caldwell County (30-26) last year and Owensboro Catholic (42-0) in the 2010 title game.
This marks the first state championship for DeSales. Second-year Head Coach Harold Davis graduated from the private school in 1982. He served as defensive backs coach for six years before taking the head job.
“The community has been waiting for something like this for so long,” Davis said. “For me to be a part of it, it is very emotional.”
DeSales ran the traditional Wing-T offense as expected. The Colts outgained the Thoroughbreds, 428-369 in total offense.
The Thoroughbreds could not contain running back Dylan Byrd. He rushed for 142 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns and caught two passes for 45 yards and a score.
“(Byrd) did exactly what we thought,” Wagner said. “We knew he was good. We knew we had to do some things well and not make mistakes. It could have been different. But give (DeSales) credit.”
DeSales loosened things up for Byrd by passing early. Quarterback Nathan Roush completed 8-of-12 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Austin Craig hauled in four passes for 105 yards.
NewCath quarterback Mac Franzen had a great day passing the ball. He completed 16-of-28 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns.
That made up for the problems running the ball. The Thoroughbreds rushed the ball 29 times for just 51 yards.
“They are quick and aggressive up front,” said Dave Schneider, NewCath Offensive Coordinator. “We did a good job for the most part. We were able to run the ball some. (The Protection) broke down sometimes. But we had pretty good protection.”
NewCath had an advantage with wide receiver Tommy Donnelly. The 6-5 Donnelly caught nine passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve had good chemistry all year,” Franzen said. “We really brought it together (Saturday). We played a great game. It just came up short.”
The game was tied at seven after one quarter. Adam Nord scored on a 3-yard pass from Rousch and Jack Sutkamp scored from 17 yards out to tie it for NewCath.
Rousch then completed a 30-yard pass to Byrd with 7:58 left in the second to give DeSales a 14-7 advantage. But the Thoroughbreds cut it to 14-13 with 6:44 left in the half when Donnelly broke free for a 63-yard score.
The Colts then used a 20-0 run to go up 34-13 and held on. Byrd had a six-yard run with 3:55 left in the game.
After two NewCath drives into the Red Zone that failed to produce points, Byrd broke free for a 73-yard run. DeSales finished off the run with 47 seconds left in the third when Nord scored from a yard out.
The Thoroughbreds scored 13 points in the fourth to get within striking distance. Brandon Gray hauled in an 11-yard pass from Franzen and Donelly scored from 14 yards away with 1:30 left in the game.
Sutkamp again led the Thoroughbreds with 14.5 tackles. Three equaled a loss of 10 yards.
The 12 NewCath seniors are Franzen, Sutkamp, John Caudill, Kole Zenni, Donnelly, Wyatt Boberg, Michael Runyon, Kalvin Moore, Tyler Lyon, Stephen Brooks, Nathan Kling and Matt Lenz.