BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- The term “NewCath-type season” should be trademarked.
Play a tough schedule, lose most games early in the year then catch fire and go the state title game.
This has been the Thoroughbreds’ MO numerous times in the past few seasons, and NewCath has advanced to nine of the past 11 state finals and won four state titles, either in Class A or 2A.
The Thoroughbreds were 2-4 six games into this regular season but is now 9-5.
While NewCath ascended to Class 2A in 2007, but Mayfield just made the jump this season after winning the last three small-school championships.
The last time these teams met in a state final was in 2005, with the Thoroughbreds prevailing, 42-7.
NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC (9-5) vs. MAYFIELD CARDINALS (13-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, 2 p.m. at Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
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PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Jacob Smith has been one of the most successful rushers in NewCath history, gaining 1,469 yards on the ground this season and 4,233 for his career.
The entire Thoroughbreds defense has been impressive this postseason, holding opponents just 29 points or an average of 7.3.
Cardinals QB Landon Arnett is 154 for 262 (58.8 percent) for 2,514 yards (16.3 YPC), 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, and Lane Kennemore and Kevin Caldwell have combined for over 1,400 receiving yards.
Trajon Bright is Mayfield’s top rushing threat with 1,362 yards and 13 ground scores.
TEAM TRENDS: NewCath has won seven of eight games after its 2-4 start. The Thoroughbreds scored 38, 46 and 41 points in its first three playoff games before eked out a win over Danville with just 15 last week. NCC’s losses have come to Scott, Cooper, Belfry, Conner and Beechwood.
Mayfield has won its last 10 and has not lost in regulation this year. The Cardinals did fall to McCracken County, 37-31 in overtime on Sept. 11. Since 2010, Mayfield has an incredible 84-5 record and has advanced to the state championship seven straight years with four titles in Class A.
NEWCATH’S KEYS TO VICTORY: NewCath has been shut down by tough defenses this season, and the Cardinals have allowed just 11.5 points per game and 227 yards against in 2015. If the Thoroughbreds can establish the passing game, it could open up the offense for Smith by preventing Mayfield from stacking the box. Mayfield has seven more TDs through the air than on the ground, so NewCath must defend the passing game in the red zone.
MAYFIELD’S KEYS TO VICTORY: The Cardinals need to avoid mistakes in the passing game, as Arnett has thrown 15 interceptions, which have accounted for 5.7 percent of his attempts. Mayfield has an incredibly well-balanced offense but it is vital for the Cardinals to establish the run against a NewCath team that is holding opponents to just 155 ground yards per game. Having a kicker that has banged 10 field goals through is a major advantage for a Class 2A school, and Sidney Herndon is a big weapon if Mayfield gets stopped deep in NewCath territory.
Prediction: Mayfield 28, NewCath 20