Friday, September 17, 1999

N.KY. FOOTBALL PICKS


By Neil Schmidt

HIGHLANDS (3-0) at ELDER (3-0)
        • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today

        • WHERE: Elder HS, 3400 Vincent Ave., Cincinnati

        • WHAT TO WATCH: Like the Highlands-Moeller classic in 1997, which Moeller won by a point, this gives area football fans a chance to debate which side of the river is superior.

        “They're probably the best team we're played since Moeller two years ago,” Highlands coach Dale Mueller said. “They may be the best team I've played since I've been at Highlands.”

        Elder starts seven seniors on offense and eight on defense; Highlands has just eight seniors and not all of them play. But many of Highlands' juniors started last year and will match up will in experience.

        “We're pleased to be 3-0,” Mueller said, “but we feel we haven't played our best yet.”

        Highlands' state-best 18-game winning streak will end unless junior QB Gino Guidugli remains calm under fire and the Bluebird defense plays its finest game.

        • PICK: Elder

COVINGTON CATHOLIC (2-2) at BEECHWOOD (3-1)
        • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today

        • WHERE: Beechwood HS, 54 Beechwood Rd., Fort Mitchell

        • WHAT TO WATCH: Covington Catholic coach Lynn Ray gets another shot at career victory No. 200. Ray, 199-97 in 24 years at CovCath, lost to Ryle and Columbus (Ohio) St. Francis DeSales the past two weeks.

        “Our weaknesses showed quite prevalently against St. Francis DeSales,” Ray said. “We have to answer those.”

        Among those: CovCath allowed 370 rushing yards last week.

        “We have some questions on our defensive line, and definitely on our kickoff returns, that hurt us the last two weeks,” Ray said.

        Beechwood is smarting from a lackluster loss to Newport last week.

        “Our team needs to get tougher,” Beechwood coach Mike Yeagle said. “We lost the fight last Friday. Newport wanted it more.”

        CovCath senior QB Brett Dietz, who smashed a finger in a weight room accident Tuesday, is OK to play.

        • PICK: Covington Catholic

RYLE (3-0) at LEX. HENRY CLAY (4-0)
        • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today

        • WHERE: Henry Clay HS, 2100 Fontaine Rd., Lexington

        • WHAT TO WATCH: These are the two biggest surprises of the season in Class AAAA. Lexington Henry Clay, a dark horse pick in preseason, has beaten two top 10 teams in vaulting to No. 2. Ryle, which moved up from AAA, beat CovCath for the first time and ranks No. 5.

        Henry Clay's star is senior QB Shane Boyd, arguably the state's most heavily recruited player this season. Last year, he threw for 2,700 yards and 28 TDs while rushing for 1,100 yards and 16 TDs.

        Ryle, coming of age with new coach Kyle Hockman, has found its own star QB in senior Justin Parr.

        • PICK: Lexington Henry Clay

BOONE COUNTY (0-3) at CONNER (2-1)
        • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today

        • WHERE: Conner HS, 3310 Cougar Path, Hebron

        • WHAT TO WATCH: It has been 16 years since Conner won its long state title, and just as long since it beat Boone County. Since Conner played Boone twice a year during several of those seasons, Conner coach Tom Stellman says the losing streak stands at about 22.

        That could end tonight. Boone has struggled mightily, being outscored 132-20 thus far, while Conner played Ryle tough last week.

        • PICK: Conner

LUDLOW (3-1) at NICHOLAS COUNTY (3-0)
        • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today

        • WHERE: Nicholas County HS, 395 W. Main St., Carlisle

        • WHAT TO WATCH: Ludlow beat Nicholas County 35-20 last year, but that Nicholas County team finished just 3-8. This year's edition has already matched that victory total and handily beaten two Class AA teams.

        Ludlow also appears improved on its 6-4 team of last year, having won three straight after a shaky opening-game loss to Madeira.

        • PICK: Ludlow

OTHER TOP GAMES
        • Rowan County at Bellevue: Bellevue will be 5-0 after tonight. Pick: Bellevue.

        • Whitley County at Scott: Whitley County (2-1) beat defending Class A state champ Middlesboro. Pick: Whitley County.

        • Dixie Heights vs. Newport Central Catholic at Newport (Sat.): Dixie (3-0) could conceivably score 70 points for the third consecutive week. Pick: Dixie Heights.

        LAST WEEK: 7-3 SEASON: 26-7 (78.8 percent)

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