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Tale of the Tape

Covington Catholic Colonels

Record: 14-0 (29 game winning streak)
Ranking: #1
Points Scored: 576 (41.1 per game)
Points Allowed: 138 (9.8 per game)
Running Clock Victories: 9

Statistical Leaders

Passing: Caleb Jacob (2,643 yards, 27 TDs/6 ints.)

Rushing: Casey McGinness (2,045 yards, 34 TDs)

Receiving: Michael Mayer (920 yards, 11 TDs), Jack Coldiron (631 yards, 7 TDs), McGinness (317 yards, 5 TDs)

Tackles: Mayer (90, 16 TFL), Jackson Blank (41), Daniel Felix (41, 7 TFL), Jack Coldiron (38, 12 TFL), Grant Hemmer (36, 8 TFL)

Sacks: Jacob Shriver (4.5), Mayer (3), Grant Hemmer (3)

Interceptions: Jackson Blank (6), Jack Coldiron (2), Duncan Summe (2), Andrew Molique (2)

2018 Schedule
8/17 Ryle W 40-7
8/24 Henry Clay W 41-0
9/1 Cooper W 54-7
9/7 Kings (OH) W 42-9
9/14 Beechwood W 49-14
9/21 St. Francis De Sales (OH) W 35-14
10/5 Bishop Chatard (IN) W 52-36
10/12 Highlands W 21-14
10/19 Dixie Heights W 50-8
10/26 Campbell County W 28-0
11/2 Woodford County W 49-0
11/9 Montgomery County W 43-15
11/16 Highlands W 36-0
11/23 Pulaski County W 36-14

Prior to the start of the season, CovCath returning to Kroger Field was a pretty predictable outcome. There was no cross bracketing in effect for 5A this year, meaning the biggest hurdle the Colonels would have to clear was arguably themselves. If they showed up every Friday night fired up and focused, no one in the eastern half of the class would derail their goal of getting back to the “Grocery Bag”. But if complacency set in, or they paid too much attention to the peripheral chatter about how good they are, they could provide someone (say, for example, Highlands) with an opening just big enough to step through and end their season on the sourest of notes.

However, no such opportunity was afforded. Following a close call against the Bluebirds on October 12th, CovCath tightened any loose screws and haven't been challenged since. They've outscored their last six opponents by a combined 242-37, including three shutouts. All 37 points allowed have been scored on backups.

Keys to Victory

1. Keep #5 upright and in the pocket - South Warren has one of, if not the best front sevens in the bluegrass. They've made life miserable all season for opposing quarterbacks. One of the biggest position battles in this game will be SW's front seven versus CovCath's offensive line. Mobility isn't necessarily Caleb Jacob's strong suit, as evidenced by his -84 rushing yards through 14 games. Keeping him upright and giving him ample time to make throws could be of paramount importance to CovCath's chances of repeating.

2. Utilize #2 to the fullest - SW is allowing a paltry 37 yards per game rushing. Trying to run the ball into the teeth of that defense has proven to be an exercise in futility this season. Casey McGinness is obviously a great running back, but this will be perhaps the greatest challenge of his career in a Colonels uniform. Utilize his ability as a receiver out of the backfield. He's caught 64 balls for 1,011 yards and 10 touchdowns as a three year starter. The screens that CovCath is so adept at should allow McGinness to get his hands on the ball in space and take some of the edge off of SW's pass rush.

3. Use your height advantage - Here's the biggest understatement of championship weekend... CovCath has some huge receivers. Michael Mayer cuts an imposing figure at 6’6” and north of 240 pounds. Jack Coldiron stands 6’5” and weighs in at around 215. Then there's the “baby” of the group, Zach Coburn, who checks in at 6’3”. South Warren's secondary is very, very good. But they'll be at a significant size disadvantage against the Colonels.

4. Neutralize Cameron Harrison - Harrison spent last year as a multi-purpose backup who scored two touchdowns. This year, he's emerged as a dangerous weapon that can win games for the Spartans and take some pressure off of Spurrier. He's accounted for over 1,700 yards from scrimmage and 24 touchdowns this year.

South Warren Spartans

Record: 14-0
Ranking: #2
Points Scored: 604 (43.1 per game)
Points Allowed: 129 (9.2 per game)
Running Clock Victories: 11

Statistical Leaders

Passing: Gavin Spurrier (2,494 yards, 39 TDs/3 ints)

Rushing: Cameron Harrison (1,439 yards, 20 TDs)

Receiving: Clayton Bush (619 yards, 11 TDs), Tanner Gallahair (511 yards, 7 TDs), Tomi Mustapha (437 yards, 4 TDs)

Tackles: Pete Cross (121, 24 TFL), Tre Teague (113, 17 TFL), Jacob Lacey (74, 33 TFL)

Sacks: Lacey (14), Trent Rice (7), Isaac Young (7), Teague (6.5)

Interceptions: Bush (7)

2018 Schedule
8/17 Hopkinsville W 49-17
8/25 Warren Central W 39-22
8/31 Franklin-Simpson W 36-14
9/7 Central Hardin W 59-0
9/14 Grayson County W 41-7
9/21 Rocky Mountain (CO) W 46-0
9/28 Greenwood W 55-7
10/5 Ravenwood (TN) 21-0
10/12 Bowling Green W 38-12
10/19 Owensboro Catholic W 42-12
11/2 Apollo W 48-0
11/9 Grayson County W 55-21
11/16 Owensboro W 44-7
11/23 South Oldham W 31-10

Unlike Covington Catholic, South Warren wasn't a clear favorite to make it to Lexington. Despite upsetting Bowling Green in last year's playoffs, the Spartans began 2018 slightly behind the Purples in the west. Dominant early season showings, including a mercy rule win over defending 4A champion and current finalist Franklin-Simpson, helped stir the debate as to who exactly was the best in the west. That debate was put to rest after the Spartans worked BG over on October 19th, in part, by turning the Purples over four times and recording four sacks of Beau Buchanan. From that point forward, they've worn the title of western front-runner well. With the exception of a dodgy first half versus South Oldham in the semis, they've looked unbeatable so far in the playoffs, including a 44-7 pasting of a very good Owensboro squad.

Keys to Victory

1. Make the sophomore QB feel like a sophomore - For much of the season, Caleb Jacob has displayed poise beyond his years. He's also had the luxury of taking snaps behind arguably the best offensive line in 5A. If he's allowed to stand tall in the pocket and make throws unencumbered, it could make for a long afternoon for SW's secondary. Bringing pressure from the linebackers and mixing up coverages are strategies that could give Jacob happy feet and/or make him hesitant to pull the trigger.

2. Create non-offensive scoring opportunities - The Spartans have wreaked havoc all season with a ball hawking defense and an explosive return game that's generated five touchdowns. All together, SW has scored eleven times via kick return, fumble return, or pick-six. Clayton Bush alone has been responsible for five of those TDs. Even turnovers or big special teams plays that set the Spartans up deep in CovCath territory apply here.

3. Selective Memory - These two teams have only ever met once before, and it's a game that the Spartans would just as soon forget. CovCath decimated South Warren in last year's semi-finals, 43-7. Coach Brandon Smith needs to make sure his guys have their eyes set straight ahead, and not to the past. These are not the same two teams that squared off last season. I don't know if the Colonels are better than their 2017 counterparts, but I'm certain that the Spartans are a superior version to the team that got destroyed on their home field a year ago.