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Luke Runyon has played multiple roles in NewCath football team’s success story this season

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

If Pikeville football coaches scouted Newport Central Catholic’s playoff victory last week, they got a good idea of the multiple roles Luke Runyon has played in the Thoroughbreds’ success story this season.

Runyon scored all four of his team’s touchdowns and made a season-high 16 tackles in a 28-21 win at Kentucky Country Day that moved NewCath (11-2) into the Class 1A semifinals against Pikeville (10-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in Pikeville.  

NewCath senior Luke Runyon scores one of his four touchdowns in last week’s 28-21 playoff win over Kentucky Country Day. (Photo by Allen Ramsey, dwcphoto.com)

The senior slot back rushed for a team-high 95 yards and three touchdowns in addition to catching three passes for 26 yards and one TD against KCD.

At defensive back, his 16 tackles included two quarterback sacks and he recovered a fumble that stopped a KCD scoring drive at the 13-yard line. 

Pikeville can’t afford to let Runyon have another big game this Friday if the Panthers want to make it back to the Class 1A championship game that they won last year.

But that’s easier said than done when you look at what the multi-talented player has done on both sides of the ball this season.  

Runyon is NewCath’s leading pass receiver with 33 catches for 462 yards and he has rushed for 487 yards on 47 carries for a team-high 10.3 average. He has scored 15 touchdowns rushing, three receiving and two on kickoff returns for 120 total points. He’s tied for the team lead in scoring with running back Demetrick Welch.     

On defense, Runyon has recorded a team-high 123 tackles (66 solo, 57 assisted) in 12 games for a 10.2 average that ranks among the top 10 in the Class 1A statewide statistics. He has made 11 or more tackles in seven of his team’s 12 games. 

Luke Runyon

That’s why Runyon was one of five defensive backs voted first-team All-Northern Kentucky by local coaches. He was also selected for his team’s Top 26 Award by NewCath coaches. 

Pikeville has won its last 10 games by margins of 30 points or more with a balanced offense that’s averaging 352 yards per game. The team leaders are running back Blake Birchfield with 1,627 yards rushing and quarterback Isaac Duty with 1,298 yards passing.

The Panthers also have a stout defense that has allowed only four touchdowns in its last five wins. Covington Catholic scored the most points against Pikeville in a 27-19 win on Aug. 27.

In a Class 2A semifinal game on Friday, Lloyd will visit two-time defending champion Beechwood at 7:30 p.m. In a district seeding game between the two teams, Beechwood came away with a 34-7 win on Oct. 14.

In that previous game, Beechwood running back Mitchell Berger rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns before suffering a season-ending knee injury. The Tigers went on to win their last five games by double-digit margins with two sophomores — quarterback Clay Harden and running back Chase Flaherty — leading the way behind a strong offensive line.

Lloyd defeated Breathitt County, 41-32, last week to reach the Class 2A state semifinals for the first time since 2003. Senior running back Kaiden Zulager scored five touchdowns and had more than 220 all-purpose yards in that game.

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