PARK HILLS, Ky. -- Coaches preach speed, power and relentless play every day to defenders on the unbeaten Covington Catholic football team.
Play fast. Play strong. Get 11 guys to the ball.
The Colonels have been doing it all season while limiting foes to only 222 yards per game through seven games. The CovCath defense took it up a notch Friday night in a 52-0 rout of Class 5A district rival Highlands at CovCath's Dennis Griffin Stadium.
The CovCath defense held Highlands to 128 total yards and forced four turnovers while the vaunted Colonels offense piled up 570 total yards.
"I think that's what we do best," CovCath senior linebacker Kameron Butler said. "We all play physical and we all play very, very fast."
CovCath has not allowed more than 17 points in a game in 2017 and has allowed more than nine points only twice. Friday was the second shutout of the season after a 41-0 win over Cooper Sept. 1.
Highlands entered the game averaging nearly 350 yards per game, but never got going Friday. Senior quarterback Carl Schoellman had thrown for 1,471 yards and 13 touchdowns through seven games, but completed only 9 of 20 passes for 51 yards and he was intercepted three times.
"We fly to the ball," CovCath coach Eddie Eviston said. "We preach it every day. We practice it every day. That's what we do. We get 11 guys to the ball with relentless effort and that's what we do. We do it every day. Now it's a habit for them. I think that goes a long way in having the kind of defense we have.”
The Colonels held senior Nick Veneman, who entered with 34 catches for 530 yards and eight touchdowns, without a catch all night.
"He's a weapon and he's a guy we knew coming into this game that we couldn't let get loose," Eviston said. "We couldn't let him start doing things and we concentrated on that a little bit. Our defense did a great job."
The defense set the tone early Friday. After the Colonels were forced to punt on their first offensive possession, Butler tipped a Schoellman pass into the air and then picked it off near the Highlands 30. He returned it to the 12 to set up senior Grant Dyer's eight-yard touchdown run for a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
"We kind of got off to a slow start offensively," Eviston said. "Then he did that and we were able to punch it in. That kind of got us going."
Sophomore defensive end Michael Mayer recovered a fumble early in the second quarter to set up junior Jacob Shriver's five-yard touchdown run for a 17-0 lead and a Luke Lenihan interception late in the second quarter set up senior quarterback AJ Mayer's 10-yard run for a 31-0 halftime lead.
Lenihan had returned it to the end zone, but a block-in-the-back penalty set the Colonels back.
"Our safety kind of got burned and little bit and I came off my man, who was going deep on the other side," Lenihan said. "I just kind of jumped in and got it."
Senior Malachi Pike ended the Bluebirds' first drive of the third quarter with a leaping interception in the end zone to set up a 15-yard touchdown run for senior Casey McGinness that made it 45-0 late in the third.
Each of the four Highlands turnovers led to a CovCath touchdown.
"It's always good for our defense to get involved that way," Eviston said. "We preach it all week. We talk about turnovers all week. We work on it. So, it's good to see a couple of them that gave the offense short fields and we were able to get some quick scores that way."
Highlands mustered a big play here and there throughout, but stalled twice in CovCath territory -- once on Pike's interception and once turning it over on downs inside the 10 with each team's backups getting reps.
"We work hard every day," Lenihan said. "Our 11 starters get in the film room and we know what the opposing offense has got. This week they had No. 9 Veneman. We shut him down. "We have good strong senior leadership out of our middle linebacker, Kam Butler, and a solid secondary. Our D-line is really good. Michael Mayer is playing end and he's been phenomenal."
It was the second straight blowout win over Highlands for CovCath after the Bluebirds had won the previous 13 matchups. CovCath won 63-26 last Oct. 14 at Highlands.
"Our coaches put in a lot of hours in film and they gave us a great scouting report," Butler said. "Also, our scout team did a great job preparing us for this team."
While the defense dominated Highlands, the CovCath offense simply ran over the Birds. AJ Mayer completed 15 of 17 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown. McGinness carried 12 times for 108 yards and two scores.
CovCath will travel to Dixie Heights next Friday with a chance to win the district. Highlands will play at Greenwood.