By Terry Boehmker
INDEPENDENCE, Ky. – Both teams had compelling reasons to win when Simon Kenton and Dixie Heights took the field Friday night for a Class 6A district game.
Simon Kenton needed a victory to finish on top in the district standings and maintain its perfect record. Dixie Heights wanted to pull off an upset for coach Dave Brossart, whose wife, Kristina, died earlier this week after battling cancer.
That set the stage for an intense battle between the long-time public school rivals, and Simon Kenton came away with a 19-14 win.
Fans for both teams came to the game wearing pink to honor the memory of coach Brossart’s wife and there was a moment of silence for her before the opening kickoff.
After the game, Brossart was asked about returning to coaching so soon after his wife passed away.
“It was very hard,” he said. “You know, my wife’s always been here after the game. I know she’s not here in person this time, but she’s here in spirit.”
Both teams played defense so well that the two pivotal plays in the game were a kickoff return and a fumbled punt recovery.
Simon Kenton junior Logan Winkler took the opening kickoff 95 yards for his team’s first touchdown. After the lead changed hands three times, Dixie Heights fumbled the ball on a punt return and the Pioneers recovered it on the 25 yard line to set up their winning touchdown.
“When you play big, important games, special teams always become a factor,” said Simon Kenton coach Jeff Marksberry. “We practice special teams every day and our kids understand the importance of it, and it kind of showed on those two plays.”
On the third play after the fumble recovery, Simon Kenton quarterback Brenan Kuntz scored his second touchdown on a 5-yard run to give the Pioneers a 19-14 lead with 4:14 left in the third quarter.
Dixie Heights had four offensive possessions after that, but the Colonels were not able to move the ball on any of them. They ended up punting twice and turning the ball over on downs twice.
“They found a way to get things done in the second half,” Marksberry said of his defensive unit. “That’s what’s got to happen. Players have to step up and make big plays in games like this.”
The Dixie Heights defense also played well. Simon Kenton’s only sustained scoring drive came in the second quarter when the Pioneers went 78 yards in 14 plays. Kuntz capped it off with a 4-yard run into the end zone to give his team a 13-7 lead.
But Dixie Heights opened the second half with a 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive and regained the lead when Darius Washington crossed the end zone on a 3-yard run and Ethan Schulte kicked the extra point.
Simon Kenton was forced to punt on its next possession and that’s the one the Colonels fumbled. It was the only turnover of the game, but it dictated the outcome.
“Our effort (on defense) was incredible,” Brossart said. “We just have to fix some things on special teams and we’ve got to make some more plays offensively.”
Dixie Heights rushed for 147 of its 192 total yards. Junior quarterback Drew Moore scored the team’s first TD on a 32-yard run in the second quarter, but he completed only four of 14 passes for 45 yards.
Simon Kenton had 190 total yards. Kuntz scored twice and completed 14 of 19 passes for 111 yards. But the Dixie Heights defense sacked him several times and kept him from making any big-yardage plays.
“Their game play was to get after (Kuntz) and they did a great job of that,” Marksberry said. “He still managed to win the game. He didn’t play spectacularly well, but he’s 9-0 this year as our senior quarterback and I have no complaints.”
Brossart wasn’t happy with the outcome of the game, but he complimented his team for playing so well after going through an emotionally challenging week.
“Our kids were absolutely resilient this whole all week,” Brossart said. “They practiced hard all week, and who knows how this game would have ended up if they hadn’t. Their effort was awesome and the credit has to go to a bunch of great kids wearing red and white (Dixie Heights’ uniforms).”
DIXIE HEIGHTS 0-7-7-0–14
at S. KENTON 6-7-6-0–19
SK–Winkler 95 kickoff return (run failed)
DH–Moore 32 run (Schulte kick)
SK–Kuntz 4 run (Smith kick)
DH–Washington 3 run (Schulte kick)
SK–Kuntz 5 run (pass failed)
RECORDS: Simon Kenton 9-0, 4-0 Class 6A district; Dixie Heights 5-3, 1-2.