Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 31, 2012

Tomcats’ playoff opener a tough test

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

ASHLAND — Holmes (6-4) at Ashland (8-2)

Kickoff: Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Holmes won 31-3, 1995

Series: Ashland leads 10-5-1

Radio: WBVB 97.1-FM

A dangerous, playmaking team will visit Putnam Stadium on Friday night in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs.

“Everybody in northern Kentucky will say they have really good athletes and they’re a scary football team when they’re clicking,” said Ashland coach Leon Hart.

At the moment, Covington Holmes seems to be clicking. The Bulldogs have won four of their last six, with the two losses coming against Class 4A District 7 top teams Highlands and Covington Catholic. And they still managed 28 points on each of those powerful opponents.

“They have speed all over the place,” Hart said.

It starts with Jonathon Scruggs, a junior halfback who piled up 185 yards on 12 carries in a 50-0 blowout of defending Class 2A state champion Cov. Holy Cross last week. Hart watched from the stands.

“He had 140 yards and two touchdowns on his first two touches,” said Ashland’s coach, who likened Scruggs to a gazelle. “He’s the fastest kid I’ve seen on video since (George Washington senior and North Carolina commit Ryan) Switzer.”

Mikekale Scruggs, a strong fullback, is also one to whom quarterback Rashawn Coston likes to hand off. Coston, a senior, missed time this season due to injury. It allowed several different players time under center, but Coston figures to be the signal-caller on Friday.

Coston has shown the ability to throw deep. Desean Peterson is the Bulldogs’ deep threat at receiver.

Holmes (6-4) also lost to Simon Kenton and Cooper this season. Cooper is 9-1 and Simon Kenton is 6A.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Hart said.

Ashland (8-2) is well-tested, and after having last week off, fairly well-rested. At running back, the Tomcats (No. 8 AP) will be without leading rusher Quinton Baker. The freshman has a torn ligament in his foot. Jeremy Jackson is also out with an injury, and Cody Watts has been out all season.

So, that means senior Malik Massey will be looked upon to continue filling in nicely. He rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in the Tomcats’ loss to Johnson Central two weeks ago.

Said Hart, as he has said before, about Massey: “He’s a threat to score from anywhere on the field.”

Evan Yongue and quarterback Aaron Elam also bring a solid running ability and good strength out of the backfield.

Starting senior center Drew Walters is back after having suffered a leg injury against Russell in Week 4. Logan Salow, the Tomcats’ second-leading receiver, defensive back and punter, is also returning from the sidelines.

“We’ve got to make sure Salow and (Noah) Wessel are touching the ball outside,” Hart said. “We can’t just let them keep everybody in the box.”

Ashland will likely lean on its strong defensive front for leverage. Cade O’Bryan has led the defensive line with 39 solo tackles. Shannon Justice and Slater Swift have been solid all season at linebacker.

The winner will take on the winner of Highlands-Boyd County next Friday.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.