A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beechwood, CovCath putting perfect records on the line in annual game between neighboring rivals

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By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

The annual game between down-the-road rivals Beechwood and Covington Catholic looks like the must-see matchup on Friday’s high school football schedule since both teams are undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state in their respective classes.

CovCath senior quarterback A.J. Mayer passed for 302 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s 44-10 win over Beechwood. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

But two of the top running backs in Northern Kentucky will be featured performers in the Campbell County at Ryle game that same night and it’ll be interesting to see if Ludlow quarterback Justin Blackburn can lead his team to its first 4-0 start in 13 years.

In this week’s Associated Press statewide poll, CovCath (4-0) was voted No. 1 in Class 5A and Beechwood (3-0) was voted No. 1 in Class 1A. Both team also have the highest power rankings in their respective classes based on strength of schedule and margin of victory against previous opponents.

Even though Friday’s game will be played on Beechwood’s home field, CovCath is considered the favorite against the defending Class 1A state champions. The Colonels won seven of the last eight games between the two teams and have an 11-3 record in the series since it was resumed in 2003.

Beechwood lost the last two games by wide margins mainly because it wasn’t able to contain CovCath’s potent offense. The Colonels scored more than 40 points and finished with more than 400 total yards in both of those games.

CovCath started this season with mostly first-year starters on the offensive line, but they’ve done their job in the team’s first four wins. The Colonels are averaging 400 yards and 43 points per game behind the play of senior quarterback A.J. Mayer and junior running back Casey McGinness.

Last year, Mayer passed for 302 yards and three touchdowns in CovCath’s 44-10 win over Beechwood. In the first four games this season, the Miami University recruit has completed 49 of 78 passes for 853 yards and 11 TDs with only one interception.

Beechwood is coming off a major victory. Last week, the Tigers posted a 36-29 win against Corbin, one of the state’s top Class 3A teams.

In that game, Beechwood senior quarterback Brayden Burch passed for 231 yards and three touchdowns. The team’s leading receiver was Daniel Mescher with six catches for 110 yards. He also kicked three field goals that helped the Tigers maintain a lead and eventually come out on top.

Beechwood has several two-way starters in the lineup. One of them is senior Logan Castleman, who has 127 yards receiving, 100 yards rushing and a team-high three interceptions on defense after the first three games.

In another big game game on Friday, workhorse running backs Jake Chisholm of Ryle and Alex Dowds of Campbell County are expected to play key roles in the showdown between their 3-1 teams.

Chisholm is averaging 246.5 yards per game as the leading rusher and pass receiver for the Raiders. In last week’s win over Highlands, he carried the ball 26 times for 265 yards and five touchdowns while also catching three passes for 47 yards.

Campbell County’s offense doesn’t revolve around Dowds, but he is the team’s primary ball carrier. He’s done his job very well, averaging 23 carries and 191 rushing yards per game with 10 touchdowns.

If Ludlow wins its home game against Newport on Friday, the Panthers will be off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2004 under first-year head coach Greg Taphouse.

In the Panthers’ first three victories, Blackburn provided most of the offense from the quarterback position, finishing with 407, 317 and 344 total yards in passing and rushing combined. He has also accounted for 96 of the team’s 123 points with nine rushing and seven passing touchdowns.

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