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2018 Prep Football Previews: NewCath senior prefers winning state title over reaching team record book

The NKyTribune is featuring each of the 21 high school football teams in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties leading up to the first games of the 2018 season on Friday. We will then provide focused coverage of our local teams throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Three of his older brothers are among the all-time leading rushers in the history of the Newport Central Catholic football program, and Kyle Kelly could add his name to that exclusive list this season.

If the senior running back matches the 1,162 rushing yards he picked up last year, it will push his career total over the 3,100 mark and put him among the team’s top 10 in that category.

NewCath senior running back Kyle Kelly tries to break a tackle during Friday’s scrimmage game against CovCath. (Photos by Dale Dawn)

That top 10 list already includes two Kelly brothers — Chris with 4,232 yards and Mark with 3,373 yards. A third brother, Ben, ranks 12th with 2,249 yards.

“It’s a football family, for sure,” Kyle said. “We’ve helped out NewCath a lot, I guess you could say.”

Kyle has another older brother, Shawn, who was a wide receiver for NewCath.  Their father and two uncles also played in the Throughbreds football program.

All of them will be coming to games this season to see how the latest family member finishes off his high school career.

Kyle said his primary goal is helping the Thoroughbreds win their first Class 2A state championship since 2012. To do that, he set personal goals to rush for 1,500 yards and make more than 100 tackles as a linebacker on defense.

“I didn’t really base my goals off their records,” he said of his brothers. “I just based it on what I wanted to get this season. Of course, I’d like to beat a couple of them. Every brother wants to do better than the other ones.”

Earlier this summer, Kyle accepted a scholarship offer from Ohio University. He was recruited to play linebacker for the NCAA Division I team, so this will be his final season as a running back.

Steve Lickert, the new head coach at NewCath, has made some changes in the offensive scheme, but Kyle will still be the team’s main weapon.

Kyle Kelly

“He’s a guy that other teams have to account for on every play,” Lickert said. “In the end, he makes everybody on our team better that way. But he also makes everybody on the team better because they see him working hard in practice every day. He’s full speed all the time, and if you want to be on the practice field with him you have to be full speed all the time too.”

Last year, NewCath averaged 155 yards rushing and 117 yards passing during a 6-6 season that ended with a loss in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.

The new head coach had to find replacements for three offensive linemen who graduated and he still hasn’t decided if junior Paul Kremer or senior Hunter Cain will be the starting quarterback in Friday’s season opener.

“I think our O-line will be pretty solid and open some big holes, so I’ll be fine and don’t have to worry about that too much,” Kyle said.

After making 72 tackles as an inside linebacker last season, Kyle is looking forward to playing what he calls “hybrid linebacker” this year. Instead of focusing on stopping the run, he will line up in different spots with different responsibilities.

“I’ll be more free and doing a bunch of different stuff based off formations and what our defensive coordinator is calling,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a good fit for me.”

NewCath’s other returning starters on defense include senior Daniel Craig at linebacker and Cain at defensive back. They both made more than 75 tackles last season.

If Cain becomes the starting quarterback, the team will still have a pair of experienced defensive backs in senior Hezekiah Miller and junior Caleb Jefferson to rely on. Kyle will also have more freedom in his new linebacker position to help with pass defense.

“He’s so fast and athletic he can play there and still cover a lot of ground,” Lickert said. “And he’s not going to be getting pounded every single play like he does at inside linebacker.”

NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC THOROUGHBREDS
2017 season: 6-6 record, lost in second round of Class 2A playoffs.
District: Class 2A, District 6 with Holy Cross, Lloyd and Newport.
Head coach: Steve Lickert (First year at NewCath, 74-83 overall in 14 seasons).

2018 SCHEDULE
Aug. 17 – SCOTT, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 – at Cooper, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31 – CAMPBELL COUNTY, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 – at Belfry, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 – at Christian Academy of Louisville, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 – at Conner, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 – HOLY CROSS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 – at Lloyd, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 – at Newport, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26 – BEECHWOOD, 7 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:

DAYTON GREENDEVILS
DIXIE HEIGHTS COLONELS
COOPER JAGUARS
CONNER COUGARS
HIGHLANDS BLUEBIRDS
LUDLOW PANTHERS
BOONE COUNTY REBELS
HOLMES BULLDOGS
WALTON-VERONA BEARCATS
BROSSART MUSTANGS
NEWPORT WILDCATS
SCOTT EAGLES
CAMPBELL COUNTY CAMELS
SIMON KENTON PIONEERS
BELLEVUE TIGERS
LLOYD JUGGERNAUTS

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