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2022 Prep Football Previews: NewCath’s scoring leader last season wants to live up to expectations

The NKyTribune is featuring players on each of the 21 high school football teams in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties leading up to the first games of the 2022 season on Aug. 19. We will then provide focused coverage of our local teams throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

By Blake Lehmann

NKyTribune sports reporter

Newport Central Catholic football coach Steve Lickert describes senior Luke Runyon as a “fast, tough, explosive player” who did the most for the team by scoring on offense, defense and special teams last season when the Thoroughbreds went 9-4 and made it to the Class 1A region finals.

“It’s always great to hear your coach say stuff about you like that,” Runyon said. “I just have to live up to that this year. I get that the expectations are really high for me.”

Luke Runyon scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams for NewCath last season. (Photo provided)

A two-way starter at running back and safety, Runyon scored 10 receiving and three rushing touchdowns on offense last season. He returned an interception and a fumble recovery for touchdowns on defense and found his way to end zone four times on punt and kickoff returns.

That gave him a total of 19 touchdowns for 114 points. Even though he ended the season with just 553 yards receiving and 140 rushing, he finished 10th among the state’s leading scorers in Class 1A football.

As a sophomore, Runyon said his athleticism and versatility earned him a spot in the NewCath varsity lineup at cornerback after a teammate was injured.

“I’ve been a three-year starter on defense since then,” he said. “I worked into special teams the same year and then finally worked into offense last year.”

Runyon’s older brother, Joey, was also a two-way starter for the Thoroughbreds. He led the team in rushing and scoring during his senior year in 2020.

“He’s been a great mentor and a role model for me,” Runyon said. “He taught me all I know, and he’s always been there for me throughout all my career. He’s probably the toughest guy on me, especially when he was there his senior year and I was a sophomore, pushing me to be a great player and be a leader now.”

Luke Runyon

The Thoroughbreds also have quarterback Kolton Smith, leading rusher Demetrick Welch and four offensive linemen returning from last year’s team. Kolton passed for 2,196 yards and 26 touchdowns while Welch rushed for 667 yards and 10 TDs.

They led the NewCath offense that had 300 yards or more in each of its three Class 1A district games and averaged 262 yards on the season. Runyon said the offense could surpass those numbers this season and make another run at the state title.

“We’re all bigger and stronger and had a great summer,” he said. “Kolton’s looking good at quarterback and Demetrick has gotten way bigger since last season in the weight room. I’ve gotten bigger and stronger too, and hopefully everyone will be firing on all cylinders.”

Although the Thoroughbreds have several important pieces returning on offense, the top four tacklers on defense last season graduated. Runyon said he’ll be sticking to his free safety position while coach Lickert is looking elsewhere to fill the gaps on defense.

“Our linebackers will just have to step up and fill their shoes,” Runyon said. “We have one senior jumping in there this year, and a junior and a sophomore stepping up as well.”

2021 SEASON: 
 9-4 record, lost in third round of Class 1A playoffs.
DISTRICT:  Class 1A, District 4 with Bellevue, Dayton, Ludlow.
HEAD COACH:  Steve Lickert (106-100 in 18 seasons, 32-17 in four seasons at NewCath).

Aug. 19 – at Campbell County, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 – vs. Holmes at CovCath, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 – at Roger Bacon (Ohio), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 8 – at Walton-Verona, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 – vs. Holy Cross at Thomas More, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 – vs. Newport at CovCath, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 – at Ludlow, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 – at Dayton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 – vs. Bellevue at CovCath, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 – vs. Beechwood at CovCath, 7 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:


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