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CovCath completes perfect season with impressive victory in Class 5A state championship game

CovCath quarterback A.J. Mayer, No. 7, breaks a tackle by stiff arming a Madison Southern player during the Class 5A state championship game. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

By Terry Boehmker

NKyTribune sports reporter

LEXINGTON — There wasn’t much suspense during Covington Catholic’s methodical march to the Class 5A state football championship. The Colonels won all five of their playoff games by comfortable margins, including a 49-13 victory over Madison Southern in the title game on Saturday at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field.

CovCath finished with a perfect 15-0 record for the first time and the program now has a 7-0 record in state championship games. All 12 of the Colonels’ wins against Kentucky opponents this season ended with a running clock that starts once a team takes a 36-point lead.

CovCath receiver Malachi Pike, No. 11, makes a leaping catch over a defender. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

“These kids deserve this,” CovCath coach Eddie Eviston said after receiving the Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl championship trophy.

“They’ve been locked in ever since day one. I can honestly say I don’t know if we ever had a bad practice this year. They come out to practice and they’re not scared to work. It’s a group of guys who love each other and that goes a long way when you’re talking about a football team. You need that to be successful.”

Having talented senior quarterback A.J. Mayer running the offense is another reason for the Colonels’ success. He had the best game of his three-year varsity career on Saturday to enhance his resume for Mr. Kentucky Football, the annual award that goes to the state’s outstanding player.

Mayer completed 11 of 15 passes for 337 yards and rushed for 71 yards on nine carries to account for 408 of his team’s 476 total yards. He also passed or rushed for six of the team’s seven touchdowns.

“That guy is Mr. Kentucky Football. If he’s not, it’s rigged,” said senior Kam Butler, a two-way starter for the Colonels.

“A.J. is by far the greatest quarterback to ever come out of CovCath, without a doubt,” said junior running back Casey McGinness. “The way he sees the field, the way he throws the ball and the way he runs it, he’s just an all-around amazing quarterback.”

Senior slot receiver Luke Lenihan breaks free after catching a short pass for CovCath. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

CovCath scored on its first five offensive possessions in the first half to offset a good start by Madison Southern. The Eagles put together touchdown drives of 80 and 60 yards behind the play of senior quarterback Landen Stacy, who finished the game with 131 yards rushing and 111 yards passing.

After Madison Southern’s second touchdown cut CovCath’s lead to 20-13, Mayer engineered a pair of scoring drives that put the Colonels ahead, 34-13 at halftime. During those drives, he threw a 49-yard pass to Malachi Pike and a 27-yard pass to his younger brother Michael Mayer, who both made difficult catches.

“They had some really good players and it kind of went back and forth for a little bit,” Mayer said of the first half. “But I love that. I love being on the field and competing like that.”

In the third quarter, McGinness scored on two long pass plays that extended CovCath’s lead to 49-13. After the second TD, Sam Schuh ran in a two-point conversion to give the Colonels the 36-point lead necessary to start the running clock.

When the coach took Mayer out of the game in the fourth quarter, he got a standing ovation from the large contingent of CovCath fans among the record-setting crowd of 10,600 for a Class 5A state final.

CovCath linebackers Grant Dyer, No. 24, and Jacob Shriver, No. 35, close in on Madison Southern’s ball carrier. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

“I was locked in,” Mayer said. “I knew what I had to do to get that (championship) ring and just did everything I could, so it feels great.”

This is the first time since 2006 that CovCath has won a state football title. When Eviston became head coach in 2015, his first team finished with a 5-8 record. Now the Colonels are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the program as undefeated state champions.

“I’ll tell you what, if coach (Eviston) wasn’t here none of this would’ve been possible,” McGinness said. “He’s changed this football program so much. Ever since he came in, he had a plan for us and we stuck with it, and you see how it turned out.”

Eviston coached Class 2A state championship teams at Newport Central Catholic in 2010 and 2012, but neither of them finished with a perfect record. In the post-game meeting with the CovCath players on Saturday, he thanked all of the seniors for their leadership. Mayer was at the head of that class.

“He’s been exceptional,” Eviston said. “For him to do what he’s done this season has been crazy. And for him to have a great night like he did (Saturday), it kind of puts a little icing on the cake for him and his career.”

CovCath’s defensive leader was Butler, who made 10 solo and three assisted tackles. He and Mayer have both made commitments with Miami University of Ohio.  McGinness finished with 205 all-purpose yards that included 152 receiving, 50 rushing and a 3-yard punt return.

COVINGTON CATHOLIC  13  21  15   0 — 49
MADISON SOUTHERN      7     6    0   0 — 13

CC – Mayer 2 run (Gronotte kick)
CC – Lenihan 25 pass for Mayer (kick failed)
MS – Livingood (Willis kick)
CC – Mayer 14 run (Gronotte kick)
MS – Livingood 3 run (Willis kick)
CC – Mayer 6 run (Gronotte kick)
CC – Lenihan 1 run (Gronotte kick)
CC – McGinness 44 pass from Mayer (Gronotte kick)
CC – McGinness 60 pass from Mayer (Gronotte run)
RECORDS: CovCath 15-0, Madison Southern 11-4

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