|Colonels Shut Out Bluebirds|
|PHOTO: Bob Jackson. Highlands senior quarterback Grady Cramer sets up to pass while senior offensive lineman Trent Johnson sets up to block in the region championship at Covington Catholic on Friday.|
But the last two trips have been a painful result. That meant the end of the season Friday.
Since a 17-0 loss to Lexington Catholic in 2005 in the Class AAA Region championship at David Cecil Memorial Stadium, the Covington Catholic Colonels (13-0 overall) have posted the two lone shutouts of the Bluebirds by that combined score. The defending Class 5A state champion Colonels extended the state's longest current winning streak to 28 in a row and the Bluebirds finished the season 10-3 with a 36-0 win Friday.
CovCath won its third straight district championship with a 21-14 win over Highlands in Fort Thomas on Oct. 12. The Colonels have beaten the Bluebirds in four straight meetings including a 52-0 verdict in Park Hills last year.
The Highlands defense kept the Bluebirds in the game in the first half. They constantly tackled the CovCath skill players behind the line of scrimmage. Highlands junior defensive lineman Zach Lewin sacked Colonel sophomore quarterback Caleb Jacob.
"Obviously, the first time we played them, it was a great battle," said Eddie Eviston, CovCath Head Coach. "Caleb is a young quarterback. He's continuing to grow and has grown since then. It was good for him to get out here and move the chains for us and make some big throws when we needed to. The O-line took control of the game in the second half, but I can't say enough about our defense. Our defense was just lights out."
The Bluebirds won the turnover battle, 2-1 recording both in the first half. Highlands junior defensive back John Kohler recovered a fumble at the CovCath 20 on a punt and senior linebacker Jackson Hagedorn snuffed out a drive late in the first half with an interception.
But the Bluebirds could not capitalize offensively. They had just 84 yards on 50 plays for an average of just 1.68 yards per play. Highlands converted just 3-of-13 on third down for 23 percent and neither of its fourth-down tries.
Following Kohler's fumble recovery, Highlands drove to the CovCath 11. But the Colonels snuffed out a Highlands run on 4th-and-1 to take the ball back.
"They just played really, really well defensively and got after it," said Zach Deaton, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "We just couldn't get it going (Friday)."
The Colonels focused on stopping the Highlands running game and held the Bluebirds to just six first downs. The Bluebirds rushed for 49 yards and passed for 35.
"They have great ballplayers and they're a dangerous team," Eviston said. "We had to prevent the big play. I think we did that. We needed to get some pressure on their quarterback. That's one thing we didn't do in that first game and we were able to do (tonight)."
Jacob completed a 64-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Michael Mayer on 3rd-and-long on CovCath's first possession of the game. Jacob completed 9-of-16 passes for 174 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Mayer led the Colonels with six catches for 139 yards and a touchdown.
But senior running back Casey McGinness took over in the second half breaking tackles consistently. He finished with 199 yards on 22 carries and four touchdowns as the Colonels built the lead up to enforce the running clock in the fourth quarter.
"I don't know if they made any big adjustments," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "It was still the same stuff. (McGinness) is just so patient. That's what we preached all week. Every guy has to fit perfectly. When you get behind a little bit and I feel like the defense felt like we had to make a play. When you start pressing a little bit and you get out of your lane a half a step, he's going to find it. He makes you be so disciplined in your lanes. He got us."
McGinness broke free for three touchdown runs in the third quarter. The yards on them were 50, 15 and 55 before the 7-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter. One of those touchdown runs came after a Highlands fumble.
CovCath put up 402 yards on 53 plays for an average of about 7.6 yards per play and recorded 16 first downs. CovCath converted on 4-of-10 for 40 percent on third down and converted both fourth-down tries.
This marked the final game for 23 seniors. They are defensive backs Bailey Armstrong, Casey Greene, Kyle Turner, Addison Reynolds, quarterback Grady Cramer, wide receivers Tyler Bracken, Logan Guy, Carter Crawford, Austin King, Nate Roberts, Eddie Etter, Liam Ehrman, Brady Walz, running back Cooper Schwalbach, defensive linemen Gavin Downard, Andrew Wyckoff, Ben Sisson, linebackers Alex Starkey, Hagedorn, Nick Bowman (also kicked and played offensive line), offensive linemen Will Salmon, Will Gastright and Trent Johnson.
Highlands still leads the all-time series against CovCath, 49-21. The Bluebirds had not been to the region championship since 2015.