CINCINNATI - Finding out where you stand against your peers during the regular season is a great barometer for Kentucky teams aiming to make deep postseason runs.
At the small school-level, Beechwood, NewCath and Holy Cross all have state championship goals as the three schools will face off at some point before November.
The schools in the larger classes found out in 2011 that winning a District title doesn’t ensure playoff success. Cooper and Campbell County celebrated historic crowns in 2011 only to bow out of the postseason early. Their foes Conner and Boone County found ways to make adjustments to take their games and make deep runs in November.
Here is a look at some of the Northern Kentucky matchups that will be worth the price of admission in 2012:
Beechwood @ Holy Cross (Thurs., Sept 6) — An early non-conference test that should come fully equipped with plenty of offensive fireworks. It will be the first of three contests in which Beechwood plays a team that won at least 10 games in 2011. It will be the last of a three-game stint that also includes Cooper and Conner for Holy Cross. The young Indians must prove they can handle mental fatigue if they want to repeat as state champions.
CovCath @ Highlands (Fri., Sept. 21) — League play kicks off with arguably the best two teams in Class 4A squaring off. Highlands beat CovCath twice in 2011, including the playoffs. The Colonels know they can hang with the Bluebirds; now they must get over the hump of how to beat their rivals.
Cooper @ Conner (Fri., Sept. 21) — In a very short time the Cooper-Conner rivalry has begun to take shape of something special for years to come. Reigning Class 5A, District 5 Player of the Year Tyler Morris looks to lead Cooper past the Cougars for a second straight season. Conner quarterback Drew Barker sat most of the second half of that loss to the Jaguars due to injury. Barker wants to erase those memories and throw his hat into the ring for the District’s top player in 2012.
Ryle @ Boone County (Fri., Sept. 28) — The chess match continues. The teams split a pair of games in 2011 with Boone County taking the playoff tilt. The reason for the Rebels' success was their ability to contain Ryle quarterback Nathan Davis, who ran for 144 yards and four touchdowns as the Raiders won during the regular season.
NewCath @ Holy Cross (Fri., Oct. 19) — It will be serious business as NewCath is still fuming over last season’s playoff loss to Holy Cross. The Indians rode that momentum all the way to their first state championship. The Thoroughbreds look to avenge that loss as they are a favorite to bring the Class 2A title back to Newport. Holy Cross wants to keep the crown in Covington.
Elder @ Highlands (Fri., Oct. 19) — They will be rocking at David Cecil Memorial Stadium as the big boys from across the river come calling. Highlands got the best of Elder at The Pit a year ago. The Bluebirds are looking for their third straight win over a GCL South school. Their fans might just will them to that victory against the Panthers.
Boone County @ Campbell County (Fri., Oct. 19) — Campbell County won the Class 6A, District 6 title in 2011. The Camels took it on the chin in league play against Boone County. The Rebels handled CCHS with ease, 37-7. A repeat performance from BCHS would go a long way toward capturing the 2012 District. Campbell County wants to show the team is going to be a contender year in and year out.
Beechwood @ NewCath (Fri., Oct. 26) — This has become one of the best regular-season finale matchups in the entire region. It is a postseason tune up that echoes the intensity of a state championship game. Playing in the first weekend of December is what both squads expect on an annual basis. This tilt toughens both teams for tournament play.
CovCath @ Conner (Fri., Oct. 26) — Two of Northern Kentucky’s finest quarterbacks square off. CovCath signal-caller Blake Bir torched the Cougars for 366 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s 42-14 win. Conner’s Drew Barker threw for 201 yards and ran for 82 more in defeat. It was the Cougars' defense that failed them as the Colonels only found themselves in a position to pick up a first down on third down just four times in the game. It will be an entertaining offensive evening to say the least.
Highlands @ Ryle (Fri., Oct. 26) — Playoff preparation begins and the regular season finale could put Ryle in a familiar spot with a chance to end another Highlands' winning streak. The Raiders snapped the Bluebirds' 37-game win streak at the end of 2010. With the postseason brackets set, Ryle gets dealt a favorable hand.
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