Vaught's Views: Title Town teams face quality opponents

December 01, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Coaches Bob Schneider of Newport Catholic and David Buchanan of Mason County would prefer to be getting their football teams ready to take on the Title Town powerhouses in this weekend's state title games.

However, Beechwood and Highlands ruined those scenarios for Schneider and Buchanan, respectively.

Now instead of playing Danville and Boyle County, the two coaches can share insights on what it might take for the Title Town teams to make it a title sweep as they did in 2000 and 2001.

Danville (13-1) plays Beechwood (13-1) at noon Friday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville for the Class A title. Boyle (14-0) takes on Highlands (13-2) at noon Saturday in the Class AAA championship matchup.

Schneider's team lost to Danville in the 2000 and 2001 title games. This year Newport Catholic beat Beechwood during the regular season and was unbeaten when it fell 33-22 to Beechwood in the regional title game two weeks ago.


"It all starts with their quarterback (Jeff Wera)," said Schneider. "I think he's the best player in northern Kentucky."

Best player? Better than anyone even on Highlands?

"Yes because not only is he a talented quarterback, but he also a real good defensive end," Schneider said. "He just wills things to happen and makes big plays. He is the key to beating Beechwood."

Wera, who threw for 199 yards and two scores and ran for one touchdown against Newport Catholic, is more than a one-man team, though. Running back Adam Peach ran for 110 yards and one touchdown against Newport Catholic and also caught both scoring passes. In last week's 45-12 semifinal win over Lynn Camp, Peach ran for 243 yards and three scores.

"He doesn't look that big, strong or fast, but he's really playing well lately and has made them a better team," Schneider said.

Beechwood will spread the field often on offense, but normally throws to tight end Andrew Daniels, who had a scoring catch last week.

"They can give you a lot of problems on offense and they are big up front," Schneider said. "On defense they are not as big, but they are very aggressive and fly to the ball."

If that's not enough, the return of coach Mike Yeagle this year has helped. Beechwood has played in 10 of the last 13 state title games, including last year when it lost to Mayfield, and won eight titles before Yeagle got out of coaching for personal reasons before returning this season.

"It's been an emotional ride with him back and that has made a difference in their team," Schneider said.

Newport Catholic got close, but couldn't beat Danville in 2000 or 2001. Can Beechwood do it this year?

"They are very comparable to the teams we had," Schneider said. "The key will be Wera. If they need a big play, he's going to have the ball. If he has a big game, they'll give Danville lots of trouble."

Buchanan knows Highlands can give Boyle, or anyone else, trouble. Boyle held off Highlands 22-21 here Sept. 19 in a game many thought could turn out to be a state title preview.

"Ever since we lost that game we've been counting the weeks until we face Boyle again," Highlands receiver-defensive back Mitch McMahon told The Kentucky Post.

Now that Highlands, which has a state record 15 state championships, has that chance, it better be ready. The Rebels have been superb the last two weeks in wins over Pulaski County and Paducah Tilghman, the preseason choice to win Class AAA.

"The biggest factor in playing Highlands is adjusting to their tremendous team speed, but that won't be an issue for Boyle because they are as fast and have already played Highlands," Buchanan said.

His team lost 20-14 to Highlands last week and the Bluebirds held his high-powered offense to 263 total yards. However, Highlands managed just 220 yards.

Buchanan, who coached with Boyle coach Chuck Smith at Mercer County, says the Bluebirds have a different look now from earlier this season.

"They have moved away from the spread formations and have gone to a lot more two tight end, power formations. They used a lot of three back sets on us," Buchanan said. "They just try to get to the corner and outrun you. They also try to wear you down by using a lot of backs.

"We were able to move the ball at times, but they use their front four and linebackers to try and get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Their speed on defense gave us trouble."

He says Highlands is the fastest team he's seen since the 2000 Boyle team that went 15-0 and beat him 62-6 in the playoffs. He also says the Bluebirds are the best team he's played since then.

"They are not close to that 2000 Boyle team in speed, but they are good," Buchanan said. "They are not that big, but they can all fly."

Highlands rushed for 234 yards in a regional title win over Oldham County and tried to control the clock against Mason behind the running of T.J. Kramer and James Hubbard, who has nine of Highlands' 18 touchdowns in the playoffs.

The Bluebirds also relied on Jordan Nevels, who had missed the Oldham game with a hamstring injury and played only defense for three quarters against Mason, to provide a fourth-quarter spark with 73 rushing yards and one touchdown.

"I don't think Chuck will need any advice from me this week," Buchanan said. "All I can do is mess him up. I know Highlands is good, but I also know what Chuck does. It should be a great game, but it will take something special for anyone to beat Chuck."

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