The postseason continues to wind down in the Commonwealth with a classic Kentucky Class 2A rivalry matchup as Newport Central Catholic plays host to Holy Cross on Friday night.
NewCath has made great strides under first-year head coach Eddie Eviston and appears to be poised for a run at another state title.
The Indians are standing in their way and their district foes won't go away easily.
Let's take a closer look at the Class 2A Regional Championship game:
HOLY CROSS (7-5) AT NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC (10-2)
Friday, November 19 - 7:30 p.m. kickoff
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior Chris Kelly is one of the most experienced two-way stars in the Tri-state area. He has been the backbone of the ‘Breds on both sides of the ball, rushing for 1,210 yards and 21 touchdowns while picking up 99 tackles on defense. He rushed for 158 yards and two scores on 22 carries earlier this season versus the Indians. Indians' quarterback Jerry Arlinghaus has flown under the radar most of the year, but his numbers indicate that was a mistake. The senior has passed for 2,405 yards and 21 touchdowns while picking up another 312 yards and eight scores on the ground.
TEAM TRENDS: NewCath has won six straight games in the series, including Week 7's 28-14 win which is the smallest margin of victory in that span. The Thoroughbreds are averaging 41 points per game on the season and have totaled 121 points in just two playoff games. NCC has not lost to a district opponent since a 28-21 defeat to Beechwood (during 1A play) on September 30, 2006. The Indians' offense has been explosive in its own right scoring 36.5 points per game, including five games with 40 points or more. Holy Cross enters this contest as winners of five straight. NewCath has won eight of their last nine games.
NEWCATH'S KEYS TO VICTORY: Putting four quarters of solid football together is a must. NCC has struggled to do that all season. They need to establish the running game and wear down an Indians' defense that lacks depth. Junior quarterback Brady Hightchew needs to keep the Indians' defense honest by spreading the ball around through the air. Putting pressure on Arlinghuas and forcing the issue will go a long way towards shutting down the Holy Cross balanced offensive attack and setting up turnover opportunities for Brian Doyle and Nick Woltermann in the ‘Breds secondary. Getting weapons outside of Kelly involved offensively will be critical. In the team's last meeting Jake Cain picked up 101 yards on the ground to counter Kelly and it proved to be the difference in the game.
HOLY CROSS' KEYS TO VICTORY: Arlinghaus needs not force the issue after being picked three times against NewCath during the regular season. Josh Jasper leads a group of capable targets and will draw the attention of NCC's defense. The senior has caught 46 balls for 912 yards and 12 touchdowns. Juniors Eric Walker and Kyle Fuller will be able to find seems and need to take advantage of their chances to make plays. Chad Fuller needs to build on his 1,000-yard season with a good effort on the ground to keep the chains moving and the defense rested. The Indians need to do much better at stopping the run after giving up 370 yards on the ground last time out versus NewCath and it needs to start with linebacker Paul Lampone. If Holy Cross can get out to an early lead, they will be able to better dictate the tempo of the game.
FINAL TAKE: Get ready for some fireworks on Friday night as both teams should be able to find the end zone early and often. NewCath has a bit more experience and the home-field advantage on their side, both of which will be factors. Expect the Indians to stay in the game early, but fade late as the ‘Breds take advantage of key mistakes and capitalize on aggressive play calling…NEW CATH 38, HOLY CROSS 28