By Dave Malaska
ALEXANDRIA, Ky. – Senior quarterback Avery Woods kept a level head, helping Campbell County survive first-half miscues and second-half frustration as the Camels sent defending state champion Newport Central Catholic to its second loss of the season, 21-20, Friday night.
Woods, who finished with 146 rushing and 76 passing yards to push the Camels (2-1) past NewCath, scored all three Campbell County touchdowns. He thought he'd have to score one more late to get the win.
After going up, 21-14 midway through the fourth quarter, the Camels watched as the Thoroughbreds (1-2) went on a four-minute, 78-yard scoring drive on seven plays to pull within a point, but kicker John Caudill's extra point sailed wide left to preserve Campbell County's lead.
As NewCath's Matt Franzen capped the scoring drive with a scrambling, 49-yard throw to a wide-open Tommy Donnelly for the score, Woods said the Camels never went into panic mode.
"We were thinking, 'Well, I guess we've got to go out and score one more. Let's get it done,'" the senior said.
From the start, it appeared late heroics would decide the game.
After Campbell County went 80 yards on its first possession to go up, 6-0, NewCath responded with its own scoring march. Helped by an unnecessary roughness call mid-drive, the Thoroughbreds tied the score on Jack Sutkamp's 8-yard touchdown run at the end of the first quarter and took the 7-6 lead on Caudill's point-after.
NewCath took a 14-6 lead midway through the second quarter after Campbell County fumbled a snap on its next possession and later muffed a punt return. Senior Tyler Lyon recovered both fumbles for NewCath, the second setting the Thoroughbreds up at he Camels' 45. After Franzen completed a 24-yard pass to Lyon on the next play, he capped the drive five snaps later by finding Lyon in the end zone for a 4-yard TD.
Campbell County responded in short order, as Woods connected on a 29-yard pass to Nate Hess to set up his second rushing touchdown from 10 yards out. Josh Carroll ran the ball into the end zone for the 2-point conversion to tie the score at 14 at the break.
The game bogged down in the third quarter, as Campbell County kept NewCath pinned deep in its own territory and had nothing to show for two of its own visits to the red zone. Woods was intercepted in the end zone to end one threat, then the Thoroughbreds stuffed a fourth-and-3 Camels attempt from the 20 yard to preserve the stalemate.
The Camels finally broke through in the fourth, capping a 4:30-minute, 10-play drive with Woods' third rushing touchdown of the night from a yard out, then held on for the win as Caudill's late PAT sailed wide.
"We were already thinking about scoring again," Campbell coach Stephen Lickert said, describing his team's mindset as NewCath set up to kick the PAT. "We had a whole three minutes left. We only had 1:56 left in the first half and we scored, so I had no doubt we were capable of going down the field and getting the win.
"Luckily, we didn't have to."
The coach gave a lot of the credit to Woods, who he said never lost focus.
"Avery doesn't let anything bother him. He's such a fantastic leader. He's got such confidence. He's out there and he says 'We're going to run this play,' and the guys are like 'Alright, let's do it,'" Lickert said. "Our kids believe in each other and they believe in our system."
Woods connected on 6-of-11 passing attempts on the night and carried the ball 29 times for the Camels. The backfield duo of Alex Howard and Brandon Morris added another 17 rushing attempts for a combined 118 yards to help the Campbell County ground game.
Franzen went 13-for-18 passing, totaling 139 yards and two touchdowns to lead NewCath.
at CAMPBELL 6-8-0-7—21
CC-Woods 1 run (Hess pass failed)
NCC-Sutkamp 8 run (Caudill kick)
NCC-Lyon 4 pass from Franzen (Caudill kick)
CC-Woods 10 run (Carroll run)
CC-Woods 1 run (Knaley kick)
NCC-Donnelly 49 pass from Franzen (kick failed)
RECORDS: Campbell County 2-1, NewCath 1-2.