The 2005 Class A state championship season for Newport Central Catholic was a year of milestones with a football team full of record-breakers that was coached by a man who’s become a Northern Kentucky legend.
“We were feeling pretty good about ourselves,” said Bob Schneider, the Thoroughbreds’ head coach from 1966 through 2009. His son, Dave Schneider, was offensive coordinator in 2005. “That was a special year for all of us. We really came together as a team, and it started us on a strong run we began in the middle of the decade.”
The Thoroughbreds finished 13-2 and won their first state title in 21 years, beating Mayfield 42-7 in a Dec. 3 evening final played in a steady rain at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville. It was the first of four state crowns in an eight-year span for NewCath. A total of 22 team and individual records for a career, single season and single game set that year still stand.
“It was a major achievement not only for the football team, but for our school,” said Zack Kiernan, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound junior lineman that season. “The best thing was a lot of my friends were out there with me.”
Kiernan also played on the 2006 NewCath state championship team before heading to Louisville. He’s now a personal trainer living in Cincinnati. The crowning achievement in 2005 came after a premonition experienced by senior quarterback Sam Diehl, who went on to Georgetown after establishing eight school passing records his final year, including single-season passing yards and touchdowns and career passing yards and touchdowns.
“Sammy told me he had a dream. He said he woke up, and we had won,” said Bob Schneider, in his 40th season that year as head coach. “So, he called all the seniors at 2 in the morning and told them were were going to win. It was something. I remember the bugle player from Churchill Downs was playing right in front of us before the game. And I kept thinking, the guy from the Kentucky Derby is playing for a state championship for the Thoroughbreds.”
Mayfield didn’t score until 5:59 remained on a long drive against mostly NewCath reserves, capping a ‘Breds postseason run in which they won by an average margin of 34 points. Head coach Schneider earned his 300th career win in the regional final. Big-play performances in the championship game in all three phases were highlighted by individual efforts from Diehl, Scott Gesenhues, Kevin Bueter, Josh Canafax and Brandon Kohrs.
“There were so many kids that did excellent, but Sammy was amazing,” Bob Schneider said. “What I couldn’t believe was we were throwing the ball so well in the final in the pouring rain.”
Diehl had a hand in five of NewCath’s six touchdowns. He threw for 256 yards with scoring passes of 16, 66, 35 and 32 yards, giving him 2,502 passing yards and 37 TDs on the season. He rushed for 51 yards with a 3-yard TD run in the second quarter, giving NewCath a 28-0 halftime lead. Tailback Michael Vicars ran for 87 yards, putting him over 1,400 on the season.
The ‘Breds raced to a 21-0 first-quarter lead beginning with the first of two Diehl TD passes to Gesenhues, who had five catches for 91 yards, was 6-for-6 on extra-point kicks and scored 18 points in the game. The first scoring drive was set up by a fumble forced by Bueter and recovered by Gesenhues after Mayfield drove to the NewCath 31 on the opening possession. Bueter had a 66-yard TD catch, an interception and five tackles.
“We were a very good defense that year with Justin Smith, Jordan Grainger and Chip Burks (the top three tacklers),” said former defensive coordinator Dan Wagner, now the ‘Breds’ head coach. “I really wanted a shutout in that final, but I was pretty happy to get the win.”
Kohrs caught a TD pass, led the team with six tackles and had an interception against Mayfield. He paced the ‘Breds with six picks that year. Bueter had five picks. NewCath set a team single-season record with 32 interceptions.
Canafax had a 54-yard first-quarter punt return for a score, two receptions, a sack and a forced fumble. He finished the season with 1,109 yards receiving and a school-record 14 touchdowns.