The rivalry between Holy Cross and Newport Central Catholic hadn’t been very competitive since the Indians ousted the Thoroughbreds on their way to the KHSAA Class 2A state championship in 2011.
After three down years with a combined 6-28 record, including several lopsided losses to their private-school rivals, Holy Cross showed it was ready for prime time again. But NewCath came away from Tom Ellis Field at Holmes High School with a hard-fought 20-13 win in the Class 2A, District 6 opener for both teams.
“We had 11 penalties in the second half alone,” said NCC head coach Dan Wagner. “We were lucky to get out of here with a win. Give credit to them. They played a great game. We’ve got to get better taking care of ourselves.”
Both teams had trouble moving the ball consistently in the first half but found explosive ways from their standout running backs.
Jacob Smith ran the ball 55 yards for a score on NewCath’s first drive of the game, and the PAT made it 7-0.
Holy Cross had trouble generating first downs for most of the first half, but found a way to break Xavier Abernathy free for a 74-yard TD after he outran one defender for most of that yardage down the left sideline. The Indians committed a procedure penalty on the extra point, however, which forced the next attempt to be five yards back. The second attempt fell just under the crossbar, and it was 7-6.
Holy Cross notched two first downs on its final drive of the first half, reaching the NewCath 48 with 14 seconds to go, but the Indians decided to run the clock out.
In the third quarter, NCC scored on a short field when a short HC punt left the Thoroughbreds in Indians territory. NewCath cashed in when Henschen rolled out to his right and found a wide-open Erik Anderson in the back of the endzone for a 12-yard TD. The PAT made it 14-6, an eight-point margin.
The Indians marched right back, helped by a 24-yard completion from Scott to Damien Serrano, as he beat the NCC defender on a high-arching jump ball pass. Abernathy made it count from 13 yards out. HC elected to kick the PAT and converted, and it was 14-13 with 2:02 to go in the third period.
NCC scored with 8:06 to go in the fourth quarter, but the PAT was pushed back by a 15-yard penalty and the Indians blocked it at the line, leaving it a seven-point margin at 20-13.
HC drove to the NCC 43 with six minutes to go, but a delay of game forced the Indians back five yards and the Indians punted for a touchback. With 5:55 to go, NCC took over at its 20. Smith took the ball on the first play and outran everyone for an apparent 80-yard score, but it was called back by penalty.
Smith responded by recording two first downs, giving NCC a first down at midfield with 3:23 to go, and the Breds got another first down with 2:24 to go.
NCC went for it on fourth down in HC territory and the Indians stopped them. The Indians crossed midfield but Anderson intercepted Scott to clinch the game.
“We try to put him in a place where we think they’re going to go and they went after him and he made a nice play,” Wagner said.
Newport Central Catholic 7 0 7 6-20
Holy Cross 0 6 7 0-13
NCC-Jacob Smith 55 run (Hans kick)
HC-Abernathy 74 run (kick failed)
NCC-Anderson 12 pass from Henschen (Hans kick)
HC-Abernathy 13 run (Scott kick)
NCC-Smith 3 run (kick blocked)
Records: NCC 3-4, 1-0 Class 2A, District 6, HC (3-4, 0-1 2A, District 6.