The district games have been played, playoff seeding is set, and now Northern Kentucky football teams only have one more non-district game left this week before officially wrapping up the regular season and moving on to the postseason.
The Enquirer will have its usual official fall sports awards issue after the playoffs are over, but as the regular season is coming to a close, we had Northern Kentucky preps contributor Rick Broering reflect on the last nine weeks of action and come up with some informal superlatives of his own.
These awards aren’t as heavily researched or stats-based as they are an eyeball test of a high school football enthusiast. In other words, these were the most fun things to watch while covering games this year.
Most Impressive Wins:
- Dixie over Simon Kenton, 36-10 – There wasn’t a more thoroughly impressive performance this season than the complete team effort the Colonels turned in against the Pioneers to capture the 6A district 6 crown. Out-gaining the Pioneers 273-105 yards on the ground was an incredible feat considering most of the Colonels’ linemen played on both sides of the ball against a huge and talented Simon Kenton team.
- Highlands over CovCath, 42-7 – Many thought that this might be the year, this scribe included. CovCath looked athletic and confident after its first four games, while Highlands looked at least less dominant if not slightly vulnerable. The Bluebirds sent a clear message with their physical play early in the game that they were still the kings of 4A district 7, and the mental hurdle proved to be too much for the Colonels to overcome.
- CovCath over Dixie, 41-7 – Looking at how the season ended up, it’s hard to believe this game ever happened. There might not be a team in the state that could bully the red Colonels now the way their rivals from down Dixie Highway did in week one. CovCath returned Dixie’s first two punts of the game for touchdowns and never looked back.
Most Exciting Atmosphere:
Dixie’s Rice Mountjoy Stadium vs Simon Kenton – It might seem that the lopsided score would make for a more subdued crowd, but that wasn’t the case at all at Dixie on October 17. Once the Colonels started turning up in the stands, they didn’t stop. According to reports on Twitter, Reds second baseman and noted local preps football fan Brandon Phillips also called Dixie’s win over Simon Kenton the best atmosphere he experienced on his tour of local stadiums this season. Rumor has it that shoppers getting in and out of their cars in the K-Mart parking lot across the street felt the ground rumble from the crowd’s roar when Luke Zajac threw down a would-be Pioneer tackler with a vicious stiff-arm during an 88-yard fumble return touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Most Entertaining Passers:
- Beau Hoge, Highlands – Hoge is far and away the most talented passer in this year’s crop. When he throws, his arm strength is second-to-none and he ‘s accurate downfield even out of pocket on the move. His fourth quarter against an immensely talented Christopher Columbus (FL) defense where he threw for 198 yards and three touchdowns in a comeback attempt was the most impressive quarter by a local quarterback all season.
- Kyle Fieger, Beechwood – The Tigers have been gained a reputation as “Running Back High” in the past, but this year Fieger is the maestro for an efficient Beechwood passing attack with a boatload of experienced weapons. He’s managed to distribute the ball almost to perfection, tossing for 19 touchdowns and only one interception on the season.
- Cameron Racke, Simon Kenton – In a year with several decent but few great quarterback talents, Racke’s progression from week one to week nine that was not only impressive but necessary for the Pioneers to live up to lofty preseason expectations put him right in the mix with the top signal-callers in the area. The sophomore proved to be durable while running the read-option effectively, and will also finish the year as one of the area’s most accurate passers with his completion percentage currently sitting at 67.4 percent.
Most Entertaining Rushers:
- Drew Moore, Dixie – Moore is technically a quarterback, but Northern Kentucky’s touchdown leader (17 rushing TDs) is really the area’s most electrifying runner. He’s a master of the read-option, and has the ability to hit the big play every single possession without ever having to lob the ball up downfield.
- Collin England, – Ryle – No one has been more fun to watch over the last five weeks of the season than England. The junior is currently Northern Kentucky’s rushing leader with 1,076 rushing yards, and has been the focal point for the offense of one of the hottest teams in the area.
- Dillon Powell, Simon Kenton – At the high school level, Powell is nearly the perfect combination of breakaway speed and strength/toughness. It’s just as fun to watch him lower his head and initiate contact up the middle as it is to see him make a juke move on the edge to break away for the big run.
Most Entertaining Receivers:
- Logan Winkler, Simon Kenton – Winkler is the total package – he runs great intermediate routes, can make a play on the jump ball downfield, and he’s a very elusive runner once he has the ball in his hands. He definitely gets bonus points for the various slick moves he pulled off when running for yards after catch or returning kicks.
- Alex Veneman, Highlands – The Bluebirds haven’t run into any defensive backs yet that can keep Veneman in front. The fact that his blazing speed makes him impossible to overthrow is only half the package though, as his sticky hands make him the perfect wide-out for hauling in those long bombs from Hoge.
- Logan McDowell, CovCath – CovCath has a trio of speedy receivers in McDowell along with his teammates Lee McClure and Jake Erpenbeck, but McDowell gets bonus points because he likes scoring his touchdowns in bunches. He’s sure-handed, shifty, fast and he scored three touchdowns in the first half against Boone County, two in the first half against Dixie and three in the second half against Henderson County.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
- Paul Price, Newport – The senior quarterback used his arm and his legs to carve up the defense in a 51-19 win over a good Lloyd team. Price finished with 207 yards and five touchdowns on 22 rushes, and 157 yards and a sixth touchdown on 8-of-14 passing
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
- Alec Hazeres, Bellevue – The senior nose tackle broke the 1A state record for career fumble recoveries by scooping up the 18th and 19th of his career in the first quarter of the Tigers’ 61-0 win over Dayton.
Enquirer NKY Area Coaches’ Poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)
1. Highlands (11)… 119
2. Dixie Heights (1) … 109
3. Simon Kenton… 95
4. Beechwood… 79
5. Covington Catholic… 62
6. Ryle… 60
7. Cooper… 51
8. Campbell County… 38
9. Newport Catholic… 19
10. Scott… 19
Others receiving votes: Newport 6, Walton-Verona 2, Boone County 1.