By John Lachmann
PARK HILLS, Ky. – Covington Catholic had Saturday marked on its calendar.
After falling to the Cougars, 13-12 in a game that saw tempers escalate in 2012, the Colonels got their revenge by dominating the Cougars on both sides of the ball, 40-6 at Wooten Stadium in their regular season finale.
CovCath outgained Conner, 495-157 and held the Cougars to nine first downs, including just one in the second half.
“This game, we’ve been looking forward to it for 365 days,” senior linebacker Blake Nelms said. “We’ve been waiting for our revenge.”
The blowout would have seemingly defied odds a week into 2013, since the Colonels had not only graduated their all-time TD pass leader from last year, their starter under center entering this season was knocked in CovCath’s first game and has not played since.
Meanwhile, Conner senior quarterback Drew Barker is headed to the University of Kentucky and was ranked one of the top QBs in the state this summer.
Barker finished 7-for-18 for 56 yards, and he lost two fumbles on seven carries, gained 43 yards on the ground.
“We tried to take away what they do on first down,” Wirth said. “Their quick passes, their bubble screens, their jet read in their runs, we preached all week that would be the key to the game. Once in a while, we’re right.”
Colonels sophomore Ben Dressman was 15-of-28 for 182 yards and three touchdowns, and he added 98 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Junior Adam Wagner, who was supposed to start under center for CovCath before his early-season injury, can begin practicing this week but will not play full-time in the first round of the playoffs, Wirth said.
“(Dressman) had big shoes to fill, especially with Adam Wagner going down, he was ready to step up and he’s been playing his best every game,” Nelms said. “I’m unbelievably proud of him. I couldn’t ask for anything more out of a quarterback – I wouldn’t trade him for (2012 QB) Blake (Bir), I wouldn’t trade him for anybody. I wouldn’t trade him for Drew (Barker) especially.”
Conner opened the game by going three and out and pinning the Colonels at their 13 with a 49-yard punt.
But CovCath took advantage of the return of Luke Bir, a senior running back who was also injured in the first game of the season. He rushed twice for 16 yards and caught a pair of passes for 25 more on the Colonels’ initial drive.
“We got (Bir) a few carries early on and once we had control of the game, we sat him just for safety’s sake,” Wirth said.
Bir’s yardage helped set up a 20-yard TD strike from senior Sam Dressman to junior wide receiver Lee McClure on an option pass off a reverse.
The Cougars’ defense had a chance to get off the field on that possession, but Conner accepted a holding penalty on third and eight that set up fourth and 18 rather than take a short gain and set up fourth down just across midfield.
The Colonels made them pay with a 23-yard completion from Ben Dressman to Bir.
Early in the second quarter, CovCath took advantage of a short field, a late hit penalty and a pass over the middle to McClure, who took off for his second score of the game, this time from 30 yards out to make it 14-0.
The Cougars went three-and-out again, and after a 14-yard net on their punt, the Colonels punched it in again on a 4-yard run by Bir that capped off a six-play, 43-yard drive that made it 20-0.
Conner answered with its lone scoring drive of the game, going 53 yards on five plays.
A Barker fumble gave CovCath the ball at the Cougars’ 36 with 1:35 remaining in the first half. Ben Dressman took off for 18 yards on fourth and four, setting up his 12-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Evan Braun, a perfect throw to the near corner of the end zone and a diving catch, giving the Colonels a 27-6 halftime lead.
CovCath essentially iced the game in the first two minutes of the second half, driving 54 yards on four plays, culminating in a 27-yard TD pass to junior Logan McDowell down the left sideline.
“We wanted to come into this game with a mindset that we’re going to carry into our next five games (in the playoffs),” Nelms said. “We came in, we rolled in them, we plan on keeping the ball rolling, like a living snowball – we’re getting bigger and bigger and bigger, badder, faster.”
As has become the norm this season for the Colonels, the injury report was a major part of the game story. CovCath benefitted from the return of Bir, senior wide receiver Evan Braun (five catches, 64 yards, one TD) and senior offensive lineman Christian Stewart.
But two more Colonels went down – Sam Dressman appeared to suffer a knee injury and junior defensive back Alex Wagner left the stadium in a cart after an apparent leg injury.
At this point, CovCath must be used to having their sideline turn into a weekly MASH unit, and at least the Colonels will be riding a five-game winning streak into the playoffs, including arguably their best game to cap off an injury-plagued regular season.
“I think anytime you play a big
Week 10 game against a school your size, or maybe a little bigger, and you have the opportunity to walk off the field with a big margin of victory and shut down a big-time player, it gives you a lot of momentum,” Wirth said. “But you’re only as good as your next snap, so we’ll find out next week when Rowan (County) shows up.”
CovCath will host the Vikings in a first-round playoff game on Nov. 9, and Conner will welcome Montgomery County to Hebron. Both the Colonels and Cougars are two seeds.
at COVCATH 7-20-13-0—40
COV-McClure 20 pass from S. Dressman (Litzler kick)
COV-McClure 30 pass from B. Dressman (Litzler kick)
COV-Bir 4 run (Litzler kick)
CON-Way 4 run (kick failed)
COV-Braun 14 pass from B. Dressman (Litzler kick)
COV-McDowell 21 pass from B. Dressman (Litzler kick)
COV-Darlington 16 run (kick failed)
RECORDS: CovCath 8-2, Conner 7-3.