The Newport Central Catholic football team is back in the Class 2A state final for the fourth consecutive year with a dramatic 15-7 come-from-behind win over Danville on Friday at Newport Stadium.
The Thoroughbreds (9-5) shocked the Admirals (11-3) with a pair of touchdowns in the closing minutes after being held scoreless for more than three and a half quarters.
“Amazing,” said NewCath senior tailback Jacob Smith. “We’re keeping the dream alive.”
Smith scored a pair of fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns, one on five-yard scamper and one on a two-yard plunge, and added a two-point conversion pass in the final three minutes. He was held to 29 yards on 18 carries, and added a reception for 36 yards, but came up big when it mattered most.
“Jake, he finds a way,” NewCath coach Dan Wagner said. “What a game.”
Danville led 7-0 on Jakobi Turner’s 10-yard touchdown run and the extra-point kick with 6:08 to play in the third quarter.
NewCath embarked on a seven-play, 80-yard fourth-quarter possession, its lone sustained drive of the game, and made it 7-6 on Smith’s first touchdown with 2:52 left in the game. The Thoroughbreds took the lead for good, 8-7 on Smith’s conversion pass to quarterback Pat Henschen.
“I decided with about 8 or 9 minutes to play that if we scored, we were going for two,” Wagner said. “And we got it.”
NewCath’s Trent Wrobleski intercepted Danville quarterback Zack Dampier on the Admirals’ next play from scrimmage and returned it to the Danville two yard line. Smith was in the end zone with his second score one play later. Ryan Hans’ extra-point kick set the final score.
“Trent makes plays,” Wagner said of Wrobleski, who had a pair of defensive scores in last week’s regional final. “He had another great game.”
The ‘Breds were outgained in total yards, 268-185. Henschen finished 8-of-19 passing for 99 yards, and led NewCath with 39 yards rushing. Dampier was 22-of-41 for 191 yards. Danville had 25 fourth-quarter passing attempts.
NewCath, ranked 10th in the Associated Press state poll, plays top-ranked Mayfield, a 24-19 Friday winner over two-time defending 2A champion Louisville DeSales, in next week’s state championship game at Western Kentucky University’s Houchens/L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green.
“It feels great,” Wrobleski said. “At halftime, our coaches made some great adjustments.”
It was a sluggish, penalty-fraught first half for both teams with momentum in short supply during a scoreless first two quarters. NewCath (38) and Danville (131) combined for just 169 yards before the break for an average of 3.2 yards per play.
NewCath was penalized five times for 40 yards in the first half. Danville was called for two first-half penalties, each negating a long touchdown, one for 40 yards and another for 54. Danville, which had a 10-game winning streak snapped, also missed a 21-yard first-quarter field goal attempt that hit the left upright.
NewCath, in its ninth state final in 11 years, is seeking its first crown since 2012 and a sixth overall. DeSales defeated NewCath in the past two state finals. Mayfield has won 11 state crowns, the past three in Class A.
Danville 0 0 7 0 — 7
NewCath 0 0 0 15 — 15
D-Turner 10 run (Steber kick)
N-Smith 5 run (Smith pass to Henschen)
N-Smith 2 run (Hans kick)
Records: D 12-2, N 9-5