High school football opens this weekend in Kentucky and Indiana, and as usual, there are several excellent matchups on tap for Week 0.
Four of these meetings resulted in games that were decided by seven points or fewer last season.
The Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown starts Friday when East Central, the Indiana Class 4A state runner-up in 2015, plays host to Campbell County at 7:30 p.m. Lloyd and Walton-Verona make their Showdown debuts at 7 p.m. at Lloyd.
Here are some of the Best Bets for the inaugural weekend of prep football in the tri-state:
(NOTE: 2015 records for each team are in parentheses)
Covington Catholic (5-8) at Ryle (9-3), 7:30 p.m. – Ryle made a statement in last season’s opener, beating CovCath 35-28 on a 27-yard touchdown run by QB Tanner Morgan with two-plus minutes left in Park Hills. The Raiders were coming off a 10-24 stretch in 2012-14 but went 9-3 in coach Mike Engler’s second season. The last three contests between these teams have been epic. Ryle blew a 17-0 lead to CovCath in a 26-17 loss in 2013 but has won the past two meetings, topping the Colonels 21-14 in overtime in 2014. Morgan threw for 2,674 yards and 21 touchdowns last season and returns for his senior season. The QB matchup will be the same as in 2015, as junior A.J. Mayer is expected to lead CovCath after piling up 1,974 passing yards and rushing for a team-best 631 yards and eight TDs as a sophomore. Listen to the broadcast with TSF’s Greg Shoemaker and James Adams calling the game and the season debut of High School Football Tonight 6 p.m. to midnight on ESPN 1530.
Cooper (10-3) at Highlands (8-6), 7 p.m. – Our first US Marines Battle of the Gridiron Series match-up takes us to Cooper versus Highlands in a clash in Fort Thomas. (READ our complete preview). Highlands will definitely have revenge on its mind after dropping a 37-13 decision to Cooper to open 2015. The Bluebirds actually ended up going a round further than the Jaguars in the postseason, advancing to the state semifinals despite a 1-5 start. Cooper went on to destroy NewCath en route to a 10-3 campaign, falling a point short to Simon Kenton in the Class 6A quarterfinals. Dante Hendrix returns for his senior season with the Jaguars after catching 53 passes for 1,150 yards – an insane 21.7 yards per reception – and 15 TDs last season. Highlands will be relatively raw at the skill position s.
Holmes (4-7) vs. Holy Cross (6-6), 5:30 p.m. – A rejuvenated Holy Cross teams that won one game in both 2013 and 2014 opened last season with a 24-20 win over Holmes and was one of the most improved teams in Northern Kentucky, ending up 6-6. Holmes finished 4-7, its third straight losing season, but the Bulldogs lost three games by 11 points or fewer. Holmes had won the previous three meetings with Holy Cross before last season’s defeat.
Ludlow (6-5) at Newport (1-10), 7 p.m. – Ludlow has quietly posted back-to-back winning seasons, going 6-5 in both 2014 and 2015 while Newport equaled its worst mark since 2008, a seven-game dropoff after recording an 8-5 record in 2014. The Panthers stunned the Wildcats 34-0 at Ludlow to open last season, which was foreshadowing for Newpor.t The Wildcats scored a Class 2A-low 76 points all season. Ludlow started 4-1 but lost 21-14 to Kentucky Country Day in the first round of the Class A playoffs. This game should closer than last year’s.
Campbell County (1-10) at East Central (12-3), 7:30 p.m.– Campbell County had three straight winning seasons heading into 2015, but last year ended up the Camels’ worst since their winless 2002 campaign. The Camels won 31-14 in 2014 when these teams met in Alexandria, but East Central prevailed 24-21 in Indiana last season. The Trojans ran with this win last season, ending up 10-3 and advancing to the 4A final.
Scott (10-3) vs. Newport Central Catholic (9-6) at Newport, Saturday, 7 p.m. – Last season’s game was a thriller, as Scott's Gage Tucker ripped a fumble away in the fourth quarter and ran it in for a touchdown, and QB Danny Fitzgerald ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-7 victory. Scott is truly the turnaround team of the decade, going from 2-9 in 2010 to 10-3 last year – the best record in program history – thanks largely to coach Dan Woolley. The Eagles advanced to their first state quarterfinal as well in 2015. NewCath did its NewCath thing last year: 2-4 start against a brutal schedule, 7-2 finish and a trip to the state semifinals.