Class 5A Notebook (10/14): Birds raise stock in defeat
During the build up to CovCath/Highlands, predictions ranged from a Highlands upset to a running clock victory for the Colonels. Someone even called for both outcomes in the same post in the pregame thread. The majority opinion seemed to be that, while Highlands was greatly improved over the past couple of years, Covington Catholic was simply too good to fall prey to the upset. A Highlands win would have turned the top of 5A upside down. Conversely, a lopsided CovCath victory would have affirmed the Colonels’ status as 5A championship favorites. Instead, what we got was somewhere in between. The Bluebirds nearly took CovCath to the brink, more so than anyone has since 2016, but ultimately fell short.
Neither quarterback looked their best, but Caleb Jacob in particular looked unsteady from the start. He missed some open throws early on that he'd been consistently making prior to this game. Highlands' defense deserves a lot of credit for limiting CovCath's passing attack, just a week after the Colonels aired it out for 385 yards versus Bishop Chatard. With Jacob having an off night, a heavy workload fell on the shoulders of Casey McGinness. He was the standout performer of the night for CovCath's offense, racking up 203 yards rushing and 2 TDs on 28 carries. Defensively, Grant Hemmer, Jack Coldiron, and Duncan Summe came up with huge plays for the Colonels. Hemmer had a tremendous strip and fumble recovery inside Highlands’ redzone to put the Colonels in position for a go-ahead TD. Coldiron picked off Grady Cramer inside CovCath's 5 yard line, snuffing out a potential Highlands scoring threat. And Summe intercepted a Cramer pass following a great punt by Jacob that was downed at Highlands’ 1 yard line. Summe's interception return set the Colonels up with a golden scoring opportunity at the Birds’ 2. McGinness quickly cashed in with the second of his two touchdown runs to put CovCath ahead 21-7 in the 3rd quarter.
Those three turnovers and McGinness’ legs were the story of the game for the victors. CovCath was also gifted what looked like a sure touchdown pass that was dropped in the final minutes of the game.
Aside from their defensive effort, a bright spot for Highlands was the play of sophomore running back Joe Buten. He outperformed senior backfield mate Cooper Schwalbach, rushing for 134 yards and a TD. Highlands, as a whole, played with great intensity and looked like they belonged on the field with CovCath, a far cry from last year's 52 point massacre. Only time will tell if this was a fluky showing from the Colonels or if Highlands is really legit this year. The Birds could potentially have to make a trip to face an unbeaten Anderson County squad in the 2nd Round of the playoffs, so an encore performance between these two teams is not assured. If the rematch comes to fruition, the hype and atmosphere will be at peak levels, calling back to the prime years of this rivalry.
Elsewhere around the rankings
- Here's something you don't hear very often… Bowling Green got destroyed last Friday. The Purples simply encountered a bigger, stronger, deeper, and more talented team in Warren Central. And they did it shorthanded. BG (7-1) was down a few starters, including Vito Tisdale, which obviously took a huge bite out of what the Purples could do offensively. The 62-14 loss was BG’s worst in nearly half a century. It's the sort of game you hope to learn from and make it out of unscathed. One of the very few bright spots for Bowling Green was a 98 yard kickoff return touchdown by Evan Spader. Coach Spader and his staff will need to turn the page on this chapter quickly and direct the Purples’ full attention to South Warren. Which really shouldn't be hard. This game was instantly circled on a lot of calendars following last year's SW playoff win.
- The two Oldham County schools, South Oldham (#4) and Oldham County (#9), flexed some muscle on their district last Friday. The Dragons (7-1) scored three touchdowns within the first 90 seconds of their 70-14 win over Bullitt Central. Ethan Bednarczyk was SO's top offensive performer, with just shy of 200 yards receiving and 2 TDs. South's point total was its highest since they scored 74 against Grant County in 2011. Meanwhile, the Colonels (7-1) rolled past Nelson County 58-7. Lucas Jones and Juan Tapia combined for 305 of OC's 401 rushing yards.
- Southwestern (8-0) and Pulaski County (6-2) took care of business in Week 8 to set up their district championship showdown in Somerset. The Warriors torched a Lincoln County squad that Pulaski struggled to put away a week earlier. Southwestern churned out 391 yards rushing in the 55-7 victory. Drew Sawyers accounted for 256 total yards and scored three different ways - running, throwing, and interception return. As for their crosstown rivals, the Wiley Cain to Jake Sloan connection powered the Maroons past South Laurel 43-16. The duo hooked up 15 times for 259 yards and a score. All together, Cain shredded the Cardinals secondary for 423 yards and 3 TDs.
- Charles Collins gave his former team a little reminder of what he's capable of last Friday. The junior running back totalled 181 rushing yards and two TDs as Anderson County (8-0) rallied from an early two touchdown deficit to beat Montgomery County (6-2) 42-34. The win puts the Bearcats in prime position to win the district. All that remains is a win over Madison Southern, a team that, like Montgomery County, beat Anderson last season.
- Owensboro (7-2) put on one of the weekends more impressive performances, routing former top 10 ranked Apollo 40-0. The Red Devils swarmed the Eagles on defense, limiting Apollo (4-4) to just 90 yards of offense. Apollo's offensive futility was countered by an explosive Owensboro unit that rolled up well over 400 yards. Most of that came through the air, as Will Warren lit up the sky with 385 yards passing and 5 TDs. Two Red Devils cracked the century mark in receiving yards - Imonte Owsley snagged eight balls for 159 yards and a TD, while Tyren Hayden caught five of his own for 117 yards and three scores.
Scanning the periphery
- Through Week 4, Graves County stood at 1-4 following back to back beatdowns versus Paducah Tilghman and Mayfield. Since then, the Eagles have quietly won three in a row and put themselves in position to play for a district championship. They've been soaring on the offensive side of the ball during this district run, averaging nearly 50 ppg and 464 yards per game against Apollo, Marshall County, and most recently, Christian County. Graves got a late TD run from QB Ryan Mathis with less than 30 seconds to go to push them past the Colonels and set up a defacto district championship game versus Owensboro this Friday.
- Similarly to Graves County, Fern Creek was also 1-4 through its first five games. They too have flipped a switch during district play and have reeled off four straight wins by an average score of 40-8. And they've been doing it without the services of ultra talented running back Anthony Teague, who's been sidelined with an undisclosed injury for the past five games. Terrance Mitchell (69 rushes for 646 yards) has stepped up in Teague's absence, as has QB Isaiah Hester.
- Perry Central running back Jayden Neace got back on track last week after being shut down versus Whitley County. He powered his way to 231 yards and 4 TDs as the Commodores (7-1) defeated North Laurel 27-25. The race to 2k yards is approaching the finish line. Neace's latest outing puts him at 1,820 yards for the season. If he comes close to matching his season average versus Harlan County (a team that held him under 100 last year) this week, he'll reach the mark on Friday night in front of the home fans.
Game of the Week for Week 9
South Warren vs. Bowling Green - Much like last week's GOTW, this one's a no brainer. The anticipation for this game has been simmering ever since last November's playoff stunner. Tisdale's health and availability are of paramount importance to Bowling Green's chances of victory. The winner here gets to avoid a potentially treacherous 2nd Round playoff game at Owensboro, assuming the Red Devils don't stub their toe in the coming weeks.