By John Lachmann
PARK HILLS, Ky. – With his original choice at quarterback available for the first time since Week 1, Covington Catholic coach David Wirth was clear about who the favorite is to take snaps the remainder of the season.
Wirth endorsed sophomore Ben Dressman, a back-up entering the season who has led the Colonels to a 9-2 record, including a 41-14 win over Rowan County in a playoff opener at Wooten Stadium on Saturday.
“There’s no doubt that Ben’s our quarterback right now,” Wirth said. “Ben’s gotten us this far and he’s done a fantastic job and Adam (Wagner’s) going to have to do a lot to unseat him right now. But the most important thing is: Adam’s healthy and if we need Adam to play, Adam can play so we’ll let that all unfold in practice and in games and see where it takes us.”
Wagner, a junior who injured his knee in Week 1 and missed the entire regular season, went 4-for-4 for 55 yards in a curtailed role.
“This week I was pretty much full go, just no contact,” Wagner said. “But I could cut and do everything I could do before.”
Dressman finished 9 of 15 for 125 yards and two touchdowns, and he rushed seven times for 142 yards and one TD – a 67-yard keeper up the middle.
Wagner’s return gives Wirth two excellent options under center. In a small sample size, Wagner is 21 of 24 (87.5 percent) for 356 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, but he piled up most of those numbers against winless Boone County.
“We wanted to get (Wagner) in this week just to get the butterflies out and get him back on the field,” Wirth said. “He’s looked good in practice.”
Dressman is now 119-for-200 for the season (59.5 percent) for 1,674 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has also rushed for 626 yards and six TDs.
While Dressman shined, Wirth was not happy with his team’s play overall. CovCath took nine penalties for 96 yards, including one that erased a 36-yard touchdown pass and another that canceled a 40-yard run.
“It was a frustrating game,” Wirth said. “Honestly, in the three times we’ve played them there hasn’t been very much good that’s come out of it."
Most of the calls were procedure penalties or personal fouls.
The Colonels also fumbled four times, losing two, and were intercepted once on a tipped pass.
“I’m happy overall with the win but I’m not happy with how we got it,” senior linebacker Blake Nelms said.
And with 7:49 left in the first half, the Vikings put together a 62-yard, 15-play drive that ate up all but 18 seconds of the quarter and resulted in a Rowan County touchdown that cut the CovCath lead to 14, 21-7 going into the break.
The last 14 plays of that possession stayed on the ground – mostly basic runs up the middle – and the Vikings gained yards on all but one snap of that drive.
“We got a spiel from the coach at halftime, and he left, he let the seniors take charge,” Nelms said. “And me and a couple other guys stood up, and we decided that it was time to play Colonel football."
Said Wirth: “(Halftime) was intense for a few minutes, but the way we were playing at the end of the first half, that was certainly called for. We’ve got enough great seniors on this team that they should be able to rally themselves in those situations.”
The Colonels scored just 84 seconds into the second half, with sophomore Ben Darlington running in his third TD from nine yards out.
Dressman connected for an 8-yard TD pass to junior wide receiver Logan McDowell early in the fourth quarter and a 9-yard strike to junior wide receiver Mitchell Rensing on CovCath’s next possession to cap off the scoring.
The Colonels held Rowan County to four first downs in the second half, and the Vikings’ final touchdown came against CovCath’s second-string defense.
“We definitely aren’t used to team that just don’t pass and just pound, pound, pound, pound, but I was proud of the way the guys stuck through it,” said Nelms, who finished with nine tackles.
The Colonels travel to Paintsville, and will play Johnson Central at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. CovCath beat the Golden Eagles, 45-15 last season, snapping a three-game skid against them.
This will be the fifth time in the last six seasons these teams have met, which each game being played in Paintsville.
ROWAN CO. 0-7-0-7—14
at COVCATH 14-7-7-13—41
CC-Darlington 6 run (Litzler kick)
CC-Darlington 1 run (Litzler kick)
CC-B. Dressman 51 run (Litzler kick)
RC-Helvey 2 run (Alderman kick)
CC-Darlington 8 run (Litzler kick)
CC-McDowell 10 pass from S. Dressman (Litzler kick)
CC-Rensing 7 pass from S. Dressman (pass failed)
RC-Helvey 51 run (Alderman kick)
RECORDS: CovCath 9-2, Rowan County 3-8.
NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC 47, OWEN COUNTY 14 – Sophomore running back Jacob Smith rushed eight times for 85 yards and two
first-quarter touchdowns to pace the Thoroughbreds.
NewCath induced the running clock with 11:08 left in the second quarter when sophomore linebacker Peyton Davis recovered a fumble in the Rebels’ end zone.
The Thoroughbreds capped off a 34-point first quarter on a junior wide receiver Brandon Gray 54-yard punt return.
NewCath will play Walton-Verona in a second-round playoff game at Newport at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
OWEN CO. 0-0-7-7—14
NCC-Smith 8 run (Caudill kick)
NCC-Moore 3 run (kick failed)
NCC-Smith 4 run (Caudill kick)
NCC-Sutkamp 10 run (Caudill kick)
NCC-Gray 54 punt return (Boberg kick)
NCC-Davis 0 fumble return (Boberg kick)
NCC-Anderson 27 run (kick failed)
OC-Lowe 6 run (Croley kick)
OC-Webster 60 pass from Smith (Croley kick)
RECORDS: NewCath 7-4, Owen County 2-9.