By Terry Boehmker
INDEPENDENCE, Ky. – Simon Kenton football coach Jeff Marksberry wasn’t happy with his team’s offensive performance in a 19-14 win over Dixie Heights during the regular season.
But Marksberry was in a much better mood Friday night after watching his undefeated Pioneers win a rematch with their long-time rival in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
In fact, Simon Kenton moved the ball so well during its 31-19 win over Dixie Heights on Friday that Marksberry praised everyone on the offensive unit, starting with the big guys up front.
“Our offensive line, they played lights out,” he said. “I challenged them all week, saying they’ve got to play better in order for us to be successful offensively. They took that challenge and ran with it and really played a nice football game.”
Simon Kenton (12-0) will face Louisville Butler (10-2) in one of four Class 6A regional finals next week with the winner advancing to the state semifinals.
Marksberry will be counting on another high-level performance from his offense in that game, but it’ll be hard to surpass what it did against Dixie Heights. The Pioneers finished with 382 yards of total offense, which was almost evenly divided between rushing (198) and passing (184).
Senior quarterback Brenan Kuntz had a big game for the Pioneers once again. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown, rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries and scored twice.
But the team’s leading rusher was sophomore tailback Dillon Powell with 111 yards on 15 carries. He was injured and did not play in the regular season game against Dixie Heights.
“Dillon was definitely a difference in the ball game (Friday),” Marksberry said. “He gives our offense confidence, and he gives Brenan confidence because he takes a little bit of that (offensive) load off Brenan when he’s in there.”
After both teams scored on their first offensive possession of the game, Kuntz broke the tie with a 66-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Logan Winkler with 6:48 left in the second quarter.
Kuntz dropped back, faked a short pass to another receiver and fired the ball down field to Winkler, who caught it in stride and raced to the end zone.
Simon Kenton extended its lead to 21-7 early in the third quarter when Kuntz scored his second rushing touchdown on an 11-yard run and Alex Smith kicked the extra point.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal football player,” Marksberry said
of his senior quarterback. “Coach (Bobby) Petrino of Western Kentucky (University) was here to watch him and I was a little worried how Brenan would react to that, but he showed what he’s all about.”
Dixie Heights had to play the second half without starting tailback Darion Washington. He injured his right ankle late in the second quarter and
came out of the locker room at halftime on crutches.
“That hurt us a lot,” said Dixie Heights coach Dave Brossart. “He’s a 1,200-yard running back so we weren’t able to do a few things (on offense) that we usually do.”
The Colonels did manage to score on a trick play to get back in the game. They ran a double reverse with the second handoff going to senior wide Evan Hicks. He stopped and threw a 43-yard pass to senior Cam Farmer, who caught the ball as he was back peddling across the goal line to make it 21-13.
In the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, Smith kicked a 25-yard field goal to bump Simon Kenton’s lead to 24-13.
But the Pioneers fumbled on their next possession and Dixie Heights put together a 76-yard scoring drive that ended with junior running back Zach Zajac tumbling into the end zone with 4:38 remaining on the clock.
Simon Kenton responded by putting together an 80-yard touchdown drive of its own. It was capped off by Powell’s 13-yard run that put his team ahead, 31-19, with 2:01 left.
Dixie Heights refused to give up and moved the ball deep into Simon Kenton territory. But an interception by Simon Kenton defensive back Austin Kelly with 48 seconds left clinched the win for the home team.
Dixie Heights finished with 343 total yards. The team leader was junior quarterback Drew Moore, who rushed for 121 yards on 14 carries and completed 11 of 22 passes for 107 yards.
But the Pioneers moved the ball more consistently and got the points they needed to come away with the win.
“I thought we had a chance at the end,” coach Brossart said. “But I’ve got to give Simon credit. They got a few key first downs and got that last score on the board. They’re just good, and I think they’re going to win a couple more games, at least.”
DIXIE HEIGHTS 7-0-6-6–19
SIMON KENTON 7-7-7-10–31
SK–Kuntz 5 run (Smith kick)
DH–Caple 1 run (Schulte kick)
SK–Winkler 66 pass from Kuntz (Smith kick)
SK–Kuntz 11 run (Smith kick)
DH–Farmer 43 pass from Hicks (kick failed)
SK–Smith 25 FG
DH–Zajac 1 run (pass failed)
SK–Powell 13 run (Smith kick)
RECORDS: Simon Kenton 12-0, Dixie Heights 8-4.