Two of the hottest small school teams in the state will face off Saturday as Newport Central Catholic and Caldwell County battle for the title at Western Kentucky’s Houchens Stadium.
Only one Class 2A team in the entire Commonwealth finished the season with fewer than three losses (Owensboro Catholic). It took some time for most of the teams to get their motors going, but once they did the cream rose to the top. Now the finale comes down to a pair of squads who have righted the ship and are playing their best ball of the year at the right time.
NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC THOROUGHBREDS (10-4) vs. CALDWELL COUNTY TIGERS (11-3)
Site: Houchens/LT Smith Stadium, Feix Field (Western Kentucky University)
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 1 at 12 p.m.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Caldwell County is a very balanced team on offense. The Tigers are led by a pair of sophomores in running back Jaylen Boyd and quarterback Elijah Sindelar. Boyd has 1,949 yards and 29 touchdowns rushing. Sindelar has thrown 2,703 yards with 30 scoring tosses. His top target is senior Martez Sivlis, who has 85 receptions for 1,295 yards and 15 touchdowns. Dee Cain and Austin Palmer have come up with big plays for the defense all year long.
The young and the old fuel the NewCath backfield. Senior Dylan Hayes is not only a threat running the ball, but also has returned six kicks for scores on special teams. Freshman Jacob Smith has come on during the postseason as his play allows Hayes to get a breather and stay fresh. Senior Josh Cain has 2,181 yards passing with 18 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. Receiver Mac Franzen has 55 receptions for 1,062 yards and seven scores.
TEAM TRENDS: Caldwell County is looking for their third state title in football. The Tigers won titles in 1998 and 1963. Newport Central Catholic has won eight games in a row and no opponent has scored more than 22 during the streak. NewCath is looking for their fifth state title and second in last three years under head coach Eddie Eviston. The Thoroughbred seniors are 34-8 in Eviston’s three seasons at the helm. Three of NCC’s four losses were by eight points or fewer.
NEWCATH’S KEYS TO VICTORY: The defense for NCC has to keep the speed of Caldwell County in front of them. The ‘Breds can’t afford to let Boyd or Sivlis to get behind them. Right now NewCath is playing their best ball on defense and momentum is on their side. The offense can score points with anyone and this affair may come down to who has the ball last. The Thoroughbreds need to jump out to an early lead to put pressure on the Tigers to play catch up.
CALDWELL COUNTY’S KEYS TO VICTORY: The Tigers are going to need to put lots of points on the board in order to win this affair. Caldwell County has to play well in all phases of the game. The NCC return game can change the complexion of a contest. Sure tackling and keeping the ball away from Hayes will help avoid a mental letdown as the clock winds down.
PREDICTION: NEWCATH 30, CALDWELL COUNTY 21
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