By John Lachmann
WHO: Somerset Briar Jumpers (8-4) vs. Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (9-4).
WHERE: Newport Stadium, Newport, Ky.
WHEN: Friday—7 p.m.
WCPO COVERAGE: Terry Boehmker.
NOTES: NewCath started the season 1-4 but has won eight straight since.
The Thoroughreds, who averaged 19 points through their first six games, have scored at least 34 in their last seven or 40.3 per game in that span.
Senior quarterback Mac Franzen, the converted receiver, is 115-for-193 (59.6 percent) for 1,794 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions – although all 11 picks were in the first six games.
Franzen is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 131 carries for 577 yards and six touchdowns.
Sophomore Jacob Smith leads the team with 904 ground yards and 11 TDs on 161 rushes.
Senior Tommy Donnelly leads the team in receiving yards with 599 on 29 catches, including seven scores. Junior Brandon Gray has a team-best 31 catches for 414 yards and three touchdowns.
The Thoroughbreds average 163 rushing yards and another 140 passing (293 overall). Their defense has held opponents to 131 ground yards and 137 in the air per game.
Like NewCath, the Briar Jumpers started slowly before surging the second half of the season and the playoffs. Somerset was 1-3 in mid-September, but the Briar Jumpers are 7-1 since.
Somerset’s postseason games have all been close, as the Briar Jumpers have won by nine, six and seven points.
Freshman Jordan Doan is Somerset’s top rusher this season, but senior Bryson Jones and senior Will Lange split carries in Somerset’s win over Middlesboro two weeks ago and the Briar Jumpers did not report stats last week.
Not including that game, sophomore quarterback Castle Hatcher was 100-for-222 for 1,557 yards, 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Senior Cam Cheuvront is Somerset’s key receiving threat, having caught 56 passes for 967 yards and 12 touchdowns entering last week.
Somerset has not beaten NewCath since 1983, and the Thoroughbreds won, 27-18 in Somerset in this round last season in the only matchup between these teams since 2006.