By John Lachmann
NEWPORT, Ky. – With Lloyd riding a 6-1 start and Newport Central Catholic having lost four of its previous five games, it appeared the Juggernauts might have a shot at taking down the Thoroughbreds on Saturday.
But NewCath scored 49 first-half points in a battle of Class 2A unbeatens to squelch any hope Lloyd had of retaining first place in the district en route to a 63-22 win on Saturday.
“Obviously we pride ourselves on playing a tough schedule and we played some tough teams,” Eviston said. “The majority of those games that we’ve lost, we’ve been in them. I just think it’s one of those things that we needed to keep on grinding, figure out a way to win and our kids came out ready today.”
The Thoroughbreds scored on 6-of-7 first-half possessions and added another touchdown on a 36-yard interception return by senior Mason Myers.
NewCath opened the game with a nine-play, 67-yard drive capped off by a three-yard TD run by Myers.
Lloyd answered by driving 65 yards, but the offense stalled and the Juggernauts settled for a 32-yard field goal by sophomore Sergio Gutierrez, cutting the deficit to three, 6-3.
Lloyd had four carries of 10 or more yards on the possession.
“I think our D-line was getting too far up the field right off the bat, letting their running back make some cuts,” Eviston said. “Once we settled them down – I think they were a little too eager in that first series – things got a little bit smoother.”
Eight plays and 67 yards later, the Thoroughbreds were in the end zone again. This time it was senior Dylan Hayes with his fifth rush and 32nd yard of the drive taking it in from the one to extend the lead to 11, 14-3.
NewCath’s defense forced a three-and-out on Lloyd’s next possession and Hayes scored again when the Thoroughbreds took over, this time on a 59-yard sprint down the sideline.
Lloyd senior quarterback Dexter Smith was then intercepted on fourth down by Myers, who ran the pick back for a TD to make it 28-3.
The Juggernauts went three-and-out two more times, piling up minus-11 yards on those drive, and NewCath cashed in on the latter with a 15-yard strike from senior Josh Cain to junior Mac Franzen.
Lloyd scored on a 52-yard pass from Smith to senior Tomi Mejolagbe, but NewCath responded with a 73-yard touchdown drive, including a 10-yard touchdown run by Myers to give the Thoroughbreds a 42-9 lead with 1:08 left in the half.
The Juggernauts fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, and NewCath recovered on the Lloyd 30. Cain threw an incompletion then handed off to Hayes, who took it in with 52 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The game went to a running clock when Hayes returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown with 9:58 left in the third quarter.
“We’ve got to get better on defense,” Lloyd coach Josh Stratton said. “The good thing is this is our bye week, so we have plenty of time to practice and get better on fundamentals. We’re going to get better at tackling, that’s the bottom line.”
Hayes ran the ball 15 times for 173 yards – and average of 11.5 yards – and three touchdowns, plus a fourth TD on the punt return. Myers rushed twice, with both attempts resulting in touchdowns, and his third scored came on his interception return.
Freshman Jacob Smith ran the ball 10 times for 65 yards and a late TD for the Thoroughbreds, who piled up 264 ground yards and another 125 in the air.
“Before we came out, before kickoff, I told the O-line, we’re going to follow them – we’re going to put it all on them,” Eviston said. “I think they did a nice job today, and I think that showed with our running game.”
Cain completed 9-of-14 passes for 125 yards and one score, and his favorite target – junior Mac Franzen – finished with four receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown.
Junior Jared Gabbard led the Lloyd running attack with 19 carries for 122 yards. The Juggernauts’ Mejolagbe caught four passes for 104 yards and two TDs.
“Offensively I thought we did a lot of really nice things today,” Stratton said. “We ran the ball better today – even including in the first half – that we have probably all season. We’re pretty happy that we’re able to walk away with another weapon that we’ve added to our offense.”
Lloyd is already guaranteed a playoff berth, and the Juggernauts have just a home game vs. Newport in two weeks remaining on their Class 2A schedule.
“We’re not crushed right now,” Stratton said. “Some of our seniors were a little upset because they really wanted to be the class to beat NewCath. The bottom line is: We have to go through each other to get to the state championship. There’s a very high possibility that we could play again, so I just have to remind our kids of that, that this wasn’t our last shot at them.”
NewCath moves into first place in Class 2A with a 2-0 district record, meaning the Thoroughbreds clinched a playoff berth. NewCath has road games