PARK HILLS, Ky. -- When Covington Catholic needed a fourth-down conversion to stay alive in overtime during last Friday’s 34-33 win over Sycamore, there was no hesitation from the coaching staff.
Junior quarterback AJ Mayer was going to get a chance to tie the game.
“You want to put it in the player’s hands you have the most confidence in,” CovCath coach Eddie Eviston said.
That player is Mayer, a second-year starter under center for the Colonels.
Senior receiver David Reisiger hauled in Mayer’s 5-yard touchdown pass to tie the game in overtime and Matt Kloska’s point-after clinched the win over the Aviators. It was the second straight win for CovCath over a larger Greater Miami Conference school. The Colonels outlasted Oak Hills, 56-48 on Aug. 25.
“We wanted to do something outside,” Mayer said. “They were kind of pressing against the inside the whole game. We wanted to go to one of our seniors and try to get a play into the end zone. I hit him right on the pylon, so it was good.”
Mayer completed 16 of 33 passes against Sycamore for 203 yards and three touchdowns with an interception while adding 40 yards on 16 carries and another Colonels touchdown. The junior has completed 55 percent of his passes for 680 yards and seven touchdowns in three games and has carried 41 times for 160 yards and two scores.
Mayer will lead the Colonels (2-1) against Lexington Catholic (1-2) in search of a third straight win Friday night at Covington Catholic and the team is confident.
“The best thing I saw about last Friday is that we had early success and things going our way and then he throws a pick-six,” Eviston said. “Sycamore scores 14 points in less than five minutes. Then right after that, he settles down and takes us on a drive. He made some key plays in that drive and took us down to score.”
That’s what a season of learning the offense, learning the game and taking his bumps and bruises did for Mayer. The game has slowed down considerably for him over the past 12 months.
“Once I learned the defenses and reads, the game really slowed down for me,” Mayer said. “Right now, I just really like looking at my reads and getting those down. I like picking apart defenses.”
Predictably, Mayer made some mistakes under center as a sophomore while throwing for 1,974 yards and 17 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. The Colonels struggled to an 0-4 start in 2015, including a 15-14 loss to Lexington Catholic last Sept. 11, before winning four of their final seven. Along the way, Mayer and his teammates grew more comfortable. Eviston said his quarterback understands what’s going on and he has taken more of a leadership role.
“I don’t think guys look at him as a junior,” Eviston said. “I think they look at him as a quarterback. I think last year they looked at him as the sophomore quarterback and now they just look at him as the quarterback. He’s earned that respect and he works hard. All those little intangibles that go in to being a quarterback are key and he does a nice job with it.
“He’s matured. He understands that not every play is going to be perfect. He understands that he is going to make mistakes. With that maturity, he is able to bounce back, which we saw last weekend against Sycamore.”
The scouting report on Mayer, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, starts with his size and strong arm. He’s athletic. He won’t make a lot of people miss when he runs the ball, but he has good speed and he is a strong runner. Teams are going to have to account for that.
“AJ is an all-around quarterback,” Reisiger said. “AJ is very well known for his arm strength. He has a canon. He’s making throws that I don’t think he could have made last year. When he has to pull it down and run it, he can do that. He’s not afraid to get those hard yards. He’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest part of our team.”