By Mike Fields
Special to Kypost.com
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- It was a cold afternoon of lost opportunities for Newport Central Catholic, and a loss to DeSales in the Russell Athletic/KHSAA Class 2A football championship game.
DeSales, twice a state-runner-up, earned its first title by holding off NewCath 34-26 Saturday afternoon in front of 3,504 fans at WKU’s L.T. Smith Stadium.
The victory was especially sweet for Colts Coach Harold Davis. He played on the DeSales team that was state runner-up to Henry Clay in 1981, and he was an assistant with the Colts when they were runners-up to Fort Campbell in 2009.
“The DeSales community has been waiting for this for a long time, and for me to be a part of it, it’s very emotional,” Davis said. “Playing in a finals, being an assistant in another, and now winning one as head coach feels great.”
Dylan Byrd was a workhorse for the Colts. The speedy senior ran 22 times for 142 yards and two TDs, and had a 30-yard TD catch.
Defending champ NewCath, under first-year head coach Dan Wagner, was in the finals for the seventh time in nine years and looking for its sixth state title.
The Thoroughbreds instead came up with their seventh state runner-up finish.
“A lot of lost opportunities,” Wagner said.
NewCath trailed 21-13 late in the first half when it drove to the DeSales 9. But it couldn’t cash in. Mac Franzen’s fourth-down pass to the end zone fell incomplete.
The Thoroughbreds opened the second half by driving to the Colts’ 19, but again came up empty with a fourth-down fumble.
On the next play, Byrd ripped off a 73-yard TD run to put DeSales up 28-13.
NewCath’s Jacob Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a score, but that TD was wiped out by a penalty.
DeSales stretched its lead to 34-13 on Adam Nord’s 1-yard TD in the closing seconds of the third quarter.
NewCath never quit. Franzen’s 11-yard TD toss to Brandon Gray early in the fourth quarter trimmed the deficit to 34-19.
The ‘Breds made a last-gasp rally as Franzen hit Tommy Donnelly with a 14-yard scoring pass with 90 seconds to go. But they couldn’t pull off an onside kick and DeSales ran out the clock.
Franzen threw for 318 yards and three TDs. He and Donnelly hooked up nine times for 203 yards and two TDs.
NewCath senior linebacker Jack Sutkamp did what he could, registering 14.5 tackles and setting a single-season school career record with 209. Steve Smith had 207 in 1995.
Wagner said his Thoroughbreds overcame a lot of injuries and adversity early in the season to get this far.
“These seniors and everybody else gave it their heart and soul, and when you work that hard and come up short, it’s hard. But nobody gave us a chance to get here but we did. That’s what I want to remember.”
Franzen, a receiver on last year’s title team who took over at quarterback this season, said NewCath cost itself dearly when it wasted scoring chances.
“We got to the red zone two or three times and didn’t get any points, and the penalty on the kickoff return was huge,” he said.
Still, Franzen could feel good about what the Thoroughbreds accomplished.
“It was a fun season, making it to the state championship game,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to remember, especially with all these seniors.
“We fell a little short. Oh, well. What are you gonna do?”