November 24th, 2010

Rocks Ryled Up For Semifinal Showdown

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Rocks Ryled Up For Semifinal Showdown
photo by Chris Jung

Trinity is 5-0 all-time against northern Kentucky team

The numbers alone make even the most conservative Trinity High School football fan scoff at the notion of anything but a Shamrock win during Friday night's Class 6A state semifinal game at Ryle.

Defending state runner-up and winner of 19 all-time state championships, the Rocks have beaten the Raiders in all of the teams' previous five matchups, by a margin of 205-45. Trinity also has a staggering 18-1 all-time record in state playoff games against northern Kentucky teams and has won 93 of its past 100 games against in-state competition.

To boot, Trinity is 12-1 this season and its lone loss came in September to a then-nationally ranked Cincinnati St. Xavier team from Ohio. Its offense is one of the most pungent in the state (2,487 rushing yards and 2,605 passing yards in 2010) and the Rock solid defense has allowed a mere 147 points in 13 games.

But Trinity Head Coach Bob Beatty doesn't care about the numbers. He focuses on game-to-game preparation and is adamant that his team treats each opponent as if they pose the most formidable threat possible on the football field.

That's why at practice on Tuesday afternoon, Beatty wasn't interested in taking it easy or allowing his team’s thoughts to shift to visions of all-day Thanksgiving pigouts. Rather, Beatty ran the practice like it was the first day of summer and everyone's job was up for grabs - a smart approach considering that Trinity's semifinal opponent this year is also 12-1, owns a single loss against a perennially dangerous team, and features one of the most explosive ground attacks in all of Kentucky.

Ryle quarterback Connor Hempel has put together an impressive campaign this season, rushing 148 times for 972 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he is the team’s second-leading rusher. The Ryle leader? That would be Travis Elliott, who has 268 carries for 2,129 yards and an eye-popping 32 touchdowns.

Hempel also has 1,098 passing yards and nine touchdowns, but Ryle centers its offensive attack around the run (3,877 total rushing yards this season). In its 13 games, the Raiders have scored 469 points (36 points per game) and has only one blemish on its resume – a 29-14 loss in August to Class 5A Fort Thomas Highlands, an extremely successful program that, like Trinity, boasts 19 state championships in its history.

The Raider defense is led by Luke Boggs (15 interceptions) and Court Mace (109 solo tackles) and has allowed 230 points all season long.

Ryle, a high school founded in 1992 in Union, KY, has only missed the postseason once since 1999, but its history with Trinity is a lopsided one. The most recent Rocks-Raiders contest was during the KHSAA state championship game in 2006, when quarterback Nick Petrino threw for 247 yards and four touchdowns during a 41-7 Trinity blowout.

The previous three playoff meetings were equally ugly, as Trinity won by scores of 49-0 (2004), 48-9 (2002), and 35-3 (2000). The closest that Ryle has come in the series was during a first-round playoff game in 1999, when the Raiders lost a double-overtime heartbreaker to the Shamrocks 32-26.

The Shamrocks, who are ranked No. 8 nationally in the poll, will be without one of its senior leaders when the teams line up on Friday night, as wide receiver Ryan Steffey’s injury – suffered during Trinity’s quarterfinal win over St. Xavier – will keep him out for the duration of the playoffs. He had previously contributed 418 receiving yards and three touchdowns, and irreplaceable senior leadership.

Luckily for the Rocks, however, its offense is loaded with weapons to make up for Steffey’s loss. Sophomore quarterback Travis Wright has passed for 2,422 yards this season and threw his 30th touchdown pass of the season during last week’s playoff game against Louisville St. X.

Wright’s favorite target – fellow sophomore James Quick – has caught 14 of those 30 touchdown passes and is 30 yards away from reaching an even 1,000 on the season. The Wright-to-Quick combination is complemented by a devastating duo of running backs. Senior Derek Bishop, who surpassed 3,000 career rushing yards for his career this season, has racked up just over 1,500 yards on the ground and 23 touchdowns. Bishop’s running mate, sophomore Dayln Dawkins, has 713 rushing yards and ten touchdowns.

The Shamrock defense has been just as overwhelming during the team’s current nine-game winning streak. Led by Ryan White, Michael Arena, and Timmy Smith, Trinity has forced 27 turnovers in its last eight games and only allowed 11.3 points per game all season.

With a win on Friday, Trinity would move to 10-0 all-time in semi-state playoff games under Beatty and set up a likely all-Jefferson County state final matchup with Male High School (who plays Scott County in the other semi-state game on Friday).

The Trinity-Male rivalry is best known for a 2002 state championship classic, where current NFL players Brian Brohm (Trinity) and Michael Bush (Male) combined for 1,020 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, and an eventual 59-56 title victory for the Rocks.



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