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CovCath completes perfect season by winning Class 5A title game behind strong defensive performance

CovCath senior Michael Mayer gets the ball to the 1-yard line to set up his team’s second touchdown in the Class 5A state championship game. (Photo by Dale Dawn)


By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

LEXINGTON — After scoring more than 150 points in its first four playoff victories, Covington Catholic’s football team needed a strong defensive performance to defeat Fredrick Douglass, 14-7, in the Class 5A state championship game on Saturday at Kroger Field and completed a perfect 15-0 season.

Douglass wasn’t able to score until early in the fourth quarter against CovCath’s defense. In the final five minutes, the Colonels made crucial stops on two fourth-down plays that sealed the victory.

“My hat’s off to Fredrick Douglass, they gave us everything we could handle,” said CovCath coach Eddie Eviston. “I’m just so proud of our guys. They’ve been warriors all year long and they had to dig deep tonight to make sure that we pulled this home. I can’t say enough about them.”

CovCath cornerback Andy Molique makes a leaping interception in the third quarter. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

This is the second time in three years that the Colonels have been undefeated state champions. Last year, they lost in the title game and finished with a 14-1 record.

“Ever since January we’ve had that taste in our mouth from that loss,” said CovCath senior defensive end John Lawrie “That’s something that’s been driving us to work even harder to make sure this (state championship) would happen this year.”

Lawrie made one of the game’s biggest stops. With less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter, he tackled Douglass running back Devin Neal for a loss on a fourth-down play to give the ball back to the Colonels.

After CovCath missed a field goal, Douglass had one more offensive possession. But a quarterback sack by defensive end Carter Martin on a fourth-down play with 55 seconds remaining put the game away for the Colonels.

“Our offense was able to put up points all year, but tonight was a battle of two defenses,” coach Eviston said. “And, man, our defense played lights out and got the stops when we needed them.”

CovCath’s leading tacklers were senior linebackers Michael Mayer with nine and Daniel Felix with eight. The game’s only turnover was an interception by CovCath senior cornerback Andy Molique that set up his team’s second touchdown.

Mayer also had a big night offensively. He caught five passes for 68 yards at tight end and rushed for 20 yards on three carries out of the backfield. He was named the game’s most valuable player for what he accomplished on both sides of the ball.

“He has the game of his life every time he suits up,” Eviston said of Mayer, one of the leading candidates for Mr. Kentucky Football. “That’s the way he approaches the game and that’s what makes him so special. Every snap you’re going to get 100 percent out of Michael Mayer. You saw that tonight and he deserves everything that comes his way.”

Michael Mayer tries to break a tackle after catching a pass for CovCath. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

CovCath opened the game with a 15-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that ended with running back Owen Nally breaking a tackle on a 2-yard run into the end zone.

During that series, CovCath junior quarterback Caleb Jacob completed all six of his passes for 53 yards with Mayer catching three for 27 yards.

The rest of the first half was a scoreless defensive struggle that ended with a combined total of 142 yards by the two teams. At the break, CovCath had 79 yards on 26 plays and Douglass had 63 yards on 20 plays.

Molique picked off a pass and returned it to the Douglass 48-yard line with 5:28 left in the third quarter. After CovCath’s offense got eight yards on three plays, Eviston decided to go for the first down instead of punting.

Jacob fired a pass down the left sideline that Mayer caught and took to the 3-yard line. On the next two plays, Mayer took the snap from the center and got the ball to the 1-yard line. Jacob then scored on a quarterback keeper and Trey Gronotte kicked the extra point to make it 14-0.

Douglass responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive. The scoring play was a 12-yard reverse around left end by wide receiver Ty Bryant with 9:11 left on the clock. But the Broncos turned the ball over on downs on their final two possessions.

“Our defense really hasn’t been tested like that for a long time,” Mayer said. “We came out and took the challenge and did what we had to do.”

The Colonels ended up with 159 yards (94 passing, 65 rushing). That total was one yard better than the Broncos, who had 108 rushing and 50 passing.

Douglass started most of its offensive possessions deep in its own territory. Lawrie’s punting had a lot to do with that. He averaged 35.6 yards on five attempts.

“We knew going into it that they’re a great team and it was going to be a battle,”  Lawrie said. “This win is what you live for, man. You dream about these exact moments since you were a kid. It’s just an awesome feeling.”

Before the game, Mayer was named Class 5A Player of the Year by the state coaches association. One day earlier, Gatorade named him Kentucky Player of the Year. The Notre Dame recruit has also been selected to play in the Army All-America Bowl.

But Mayer said winning the CovCath program’s eighth state title with his teammates is the highlight of his senior season.

“The main goal for this year was really a state championship,” he said. “I love all the individual awards and everything, but at the end of the day it’s all about us winning the (championship) rings. It’s a great feeling.”

COVINGTON CATHOLIC  7  0  7  0 — 14
FREDRICK DOUGLASS   0  0  0  7 — 7
CC — Nally 2 run (Gronotte kick)
CC — Jacob 1 run (Gronotte kick)
FD — Bryant 12 run (Leigeb kick)
RECORDS: CovCath 15-0, Fredrick Douglass 14-1.

State championship games at University of Kentucky

Class 1A — Pikeville 43, Paintsville 0
Class 3A — Belfry 30, Bell County 20
Class 2A — Somerset 34, Mayfield 31
Class 4A — Johnson Central 21, Boyle County 20
Class 5A — Covington Catholic 14, Fredrick Douglass 7
Class 6A — Louisville Male (14-0) vs. Louisville Trinity (12-2), 2 p.m.

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