By Terry Boehmker
ALEXANDRIA, Ky. – After giving up 55 points in a loss to Simon Kenton last week, Campbell County’s defensive unit was determined to do better in a Class 6A district game against Dixie Heights on Friday.
The Camels restored their reputation by making some big defensive plays in a 16-13 win over the visiting Colonels, who had been averaging 35 points per game.
“That was really embarrassing for us to give up that many points,” said Campbell County senior safety Eli Matthews. “So we, as a defense, kind of made a pact that we weren’t going to let that happen again.”
After Matthews returned a punt 41 yards for a touchdown that gave Campbell County a three-point lead with 5:43 left in the fourth quarter, Dixie Heights moved the ball down the field and got a first down on the 2 yard line.
But a false start penalty, quarterback sack and delay of game penalty pushed the Colonels back to the 24-yard line and the drive ended on a missed field goal attempt by sophomore placekicker Gunther Faith.
Dixie Heights got the ball back one more time with 57 seconds remaining but ended up turning it over on downs after four plays.
“Our kids came out and really stopped an explosive Dixie offense,” said Campbell County coach Steve Lickert. “They were averaging 35 points a game and only scored 13 against us. Our defense just came out and did a fantastic job.”
Dixie Heights turned the ball over on downs four times during the game, but penalties also hampered the team’s scoring ability. The Colonels had a long kickoff return and a touchdown run negated by holding calls. On one possession, they were flagged four times for 35 yards.
“You just can’t do those things and expect to win a ball game,” said Dixie Heights coach Dave Brossart.
“We still thought we had things taken care of until that punt return (for a touchdown),” Brossart added. “Once again, it was mistake after mistake and we couldn’t get any breaks. Sometimes you’ve got to have a little luck in this game and all the luck went Campbell’s way.”
All of the scoring in the first half took place during the final four minutes.
Campbell County senior placekicker Stewart Knaley, who missed a 38-yard field goal early in the game, converted a 45-yard attempt to give the Camels a 3-0 lead with 3:40 left in the second quarter.
The next time the Camels got the ball, senior quarterback Avery Wood threw a 32-yard touchdown strike to senior wide receiver Jake Zabonick to make it 9-0.
On the next play from scrimmage, however, Dixie Heights junior quarterback Drew Moore darted through the Campbell County defense on a 74-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to three at halftime.
The Colonels took their only lead of the game late in the third quarter when Moore scored his second TD on a 3-yard run and Faith kicked the extra point.
That set the stage for Matthew’s game-winning punt return. After scooping up the ball at the Dixie 41 yard line, he reversed direction and zig-zagged through a mob of players to make it to the goal line.
“At the end, I thought I fumbled it into the end zone,” Matthews said. “I stuck the ball out and looked over at the referee hoping he would say it was a touchdown. As soon as he did that, it was probably the most excited I’ve ever been in my life.”
The win created a three-way tie for second place in the Class 6A district. Campbell County, Dixie Heights and Ryle all have a 1-1 record with two district games left on their schedules.
Campbell County ended up with 203 total yards (129 yards passing, 74 yards rushing). Wood completed 14 of 27 passes with Zabonick catching 10 for 120 yards.
Dixie Heights had 387 total yards with Moore accounting for most of it. He completed 7 of 18 passes for 92 yards and rushed for 139 yards on 10 carries.
DIXIE HEIGHTS 0-6-7-0–13
at CAMPBELL CO. 0-9-0-7–16
CC–Knaley 45 FG
CC– Zabonick 32 pass from Wood (kick failed)
DH–Moore 74 run (kick failed)
DH–Moore 3 run (Faith kick)
CC–Mathews 41 punt return (Knaley kick)
RECORDS: Campbell County 4-3, 1-1 Class 6A; Dixie Heights 5-2, 1-1