By Dan Wright
CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. – Dixie Heights turned in a dominating defensive display to defeat Newport Central Catholic, 36-7, Friday night at Rice Mountjoy Stadium.
The Colonels held the Thoroughbreds to just four first downs while NewCath had nine punts and three turnovers among its 12 possessions.
“It’s nice to see Dixie not getting into shootouts anymore,” said Colonels head coach Dave Brossart. “That’s kind of been the M.O. over the years.”
Not only did Dixie Heights win its third straight game to match last year’s win total, the Colonels also held a second straight opponent to seven points after a run of 42 straight games in which they had given up at least 14 points dating back to 2009.
“We’ve really practiced tackling and getting to the football and being aggressive and we really pride ourselves on physicality,” Brossart said. “We’ve been doing that offensively and defensively, but tonight, defensively, it really stood out. I think we overmatched their offensive line. They have some great athletes, they just couldn’t get them out in space and give them the ball.”
NewCath did manage to get senior receiver Tommy Donnelly loose for a 67-yard pass on the second play of the game, scoring on a 4-yard run by sophomore Jacob Smith on the next play to lead 7-0 early.
“Other than one mental error where we gave up the touchdown we really played well all night long,” Brossart said. “I can’t imagine they got more than 50 or 100 yards beyond that first big play.”
In fact, the Thoroughbreds nearly had more yards on that one long pass play than they did the rest of the night, gaining just 136 yards for the game.
“We just adjusted to their trips, which they like, and we just played more physical than them,” said senior linebacker Brendan Fisk. “We beat them up.”
Dixie Heights finished the game with 512 yards of offense, including 292 rushing yards on 48 carries, but struggled as well offensively during a first half that was played in a steady rain.
After the Colonels' fourth snap of the game sailed over 6-foot-3 junior quarterback Drew Moore’s head, Moore was forced into the unfamiliar position of lining up under center, where he still mishandled three more snaps in the half.
“The rain hurt us. Drew Moore, who has played an outstanding first half of the season, he struggled a little bit and the rain was getting in his head,” Brossart said. “It got in a lot of kid’s heads. If it rattles some of your leaders, some of your offensive leaders, it’s going to rattle the rest of your team.”
Moore did manage to complete a 69-yard pass to senior receiver Cameron Farmer to set up 6-foot-1, 225-pound running back Seth Caple for a 1-yard touchdown to tie the score on Dixie Heights' first drive of the game.
Dixie Heights had its next two drives end on downs inside the NewCath 10 yard line, but Fisk recovered fumbles on two consecutive NewCath offensive plays, the latter setting Caple up for another 1-yard touchdown run to put the Colonels up, 14-7, at halftime.
With the rain letting up in the second half, the Colonels were able to get their offense going again, with Moore finishing 7-of-16 for 220 yards.
“The first two (mishandled snaps) got a little under my skin,” Moore said. “I didn’t have much confidence. In the second half I came back out ready to go.”
In addition to his two first-half touchdown runs, Caple was the Colonels' leading receiver with three catches for 105 yards, including an impressive 59-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter.
“I was pumped when he stiff-armed the first guy,” Moore said of the play. “He threw him like five yards. I haven’t even seen Seth run like that. He’s getting fast.”
That play set up Moore for a 1-yard touchdown run and junior defensive back Ethan Harrison added to the lead with a 43-yard interception return later in the third quarter.
Darion Washington, Dixie’s leading rusher with 128 yards on 20 carries, scored the final touchdown on an 18-yard run. A mishandled snap on the kick attempt afterwards caused senior Evan Hicks to run for a two point conversion for the final margin in both team’s final game before starting district play.
“Oh, we’re ready for our district,” Fisk said. “We think we can win our district and be No. 1.”
at D. HEIGHTS 7-7-14-8—36
NCC-Smith 4 run (Caudill kick)
DH-Caple 1 run (Schulte kick)
DH-Caple 1 run (Schulte kick)
DH-Moore 1 run (Schulte kick)
DH-Harrison 43 interception return (Schulte kick)
DH-Washington 18 run (Hicks run)
RECORDS: Dixie Heights 3-1, Newport Central Catholic 1-4.