The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds got on the scoreboard quickly as Jacob Smith returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a score as they wasted little time putting the Walton-Verona Bearcats' hopes for a regional title to rest on their way to a 49-14 victory.
NewCath (9-4) raced to a 21-0 lead less than eight minutes unto the contest and never looked back. The 'Breds, who have won seven in a row, will be playing in the Class 2A final four for the second time in three seasons under head coach Eddie Eviston.
Smith had the first of what appears to be many memorable nights for NCC. The freshman also scored on short run in the third quarter after picking off a Bearcats pass. His kickoff return was one of two special team's touchdowns by NewCath in the opening stanza.
Senior Dylan Hayes also had a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was the fourth time this season that Hayes has found the end zone on a punt return and 30th touchdown overall. Sandwiched in between the scores by Smith and Hayes were touchdown runs by Brady Thacker and Josh Cain as NCC built a 28-0 lead after one period.
Walton-Verona saw its best drive of the night come up empty when they fumbled the ball on the NewCath 1-yard line. The Bearcats showed resolve when Will Latimore intercepted a Cain pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown on the very next play to make it 28-7 NCC in the second stanza.
The Thoroughbreds would score the next 21 points and end the period with a 49-7 lead. Cain had a touchdown pass to Pete Collopy and Tyler Lyon recovered a bad snap by W-V on a punt in the end zone to round out the scoring for the victors.
Cain completed 16 of 23 passes for 182 yards. Smith returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, returned a third-quarter punt 34 yards to set up his own 2-yard touchdown run, and intercepted a pass.
NewCath will now head to Somerset (11-2) to take on the Briar Jumpers next Friday night. The Thoroughbreds are two wins away from their fifth state title in school history and second in the last three years.