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Tale Of The Tape

Covington Catholic
Record:14-0 (43-1 since 2017)
BluegrassPreps Ranking: #1
Points Scored: 550 (#4 in 5A)
Points Allowed: 85 (#2 in the state)
Championship History: 3A Champions in 1987, 1988, 1993, 1994, 1997, and 2006; 5A Champions in 2017

2019 Schedule
8/23 Ryle W 37-0
8/30 Campbell County W 49-0
9/6 Lexington Catholic W 39-38
9/13 Dixie Heights W 45-0
9/20 Beechwood W 49-3
9/27 Cooper W 45-6
10/4 Boone County W 45-0
10/11 LaSalle (OH) W 27-7
10/18 Highlands W 13-0
10/25 Conner W 45-7
11/8 Cooper W 41-6
11/15 Conner W 38-9
11/22 Madison Southern W 49-9
11/29 Bowling Green W 28-0

Who to watch:

QB Caleb Jacob (2,723 passing yards/38 combined TDs)
TE/LB Michael Mayer (902 receiving yards/15 TDs/90 tackles/4 ints.)
RB/LB Daniel Felix (780 rushing yards/14 TDs/69 tackles/9 sacks)
WR Ethan Reardon (799 receiving yards/9 TDs)
WR/DB Andy Molique (458 receiving yards/5 TDs/5 ints.)
DL Carter Martin and Trevor Wilson (combined for 16 sacks)

How they got here: When Bowling Green rolled into town, you didn't have to dig too deep to find a reason why they were a real threat to ruin CovCath's bid for a third straight trip to the grocery store. The Purples possessed multiple future FBS talents and were battle hardened by a challenging schedule. It was a clash of goliath programs, one looking to extend an incredible run over the last three years, the other trying to get back to where so many of their seasons have ended in the last decade: championship weekend.

Ultimately, CovCath proved too much for the Purples, as they methodically wore Bowling Green down behind a stellar defensive effort and workmanlike offense to get back to Lexington. Caleb Jacob was on target, connecting with Andy Molique, Michael Mayer, and Ethan Reardon for touchdowns. The defense was on target as well, harassing Conner Cooper and the rest of the BG offense, holding the Purples scoreless for the first time in five years.

Where they're going: To play for their second state championship in three years and eighth overall.

Over the last three seasons, Covington Catholic football has enjoyed an exciting resurgence, but one final hurdle remains before we can place another crown upon the Colonels' head. A Division I talent laden Frederick Douglass squad will be waiting for them when they arrive at Kroger Field.

Random Observations:

Make McClurg beat you with his arm - FD's quarterback is a more than adequate passer, but one of the most dynamic aspects of Douglass's offense is his legs. Whether it's a designed run, or improvisation, his ability to make plays with his lower body should be a chief concern for CovCath. Even on a team with University of Cincinnati commit Devin Neal carrying the ball, McClurg is the Broncos' leading rusher, and for good reason.

Utilize your height - When looking over the personnel of these two teams, one physical advantage that Covington Catholic has is the size of their pass catchers over Douglass' secondary. Mayer, Reardon, and Molique all range from 6'3" to 6'5". Devin Neal is FD's tallest defensive back at 6'0", with Jaylin Bybee and Bryce Higgins checking in at 5'8" to 5'9". Molique's touchdown reception against Bowling Green is a good example of what CovCath's big guys can do against shorter DBs.

Be creative when you bring pressure - As everyone should know by now, Douglass' offensive line is no joke. That unit had only allowed one sack all season entering the semifinals. McClurg has been relatively unencumbered in the pocket this season, and if Covington Catholic hopes to change that, they're probably going to have to do it with more than their usual blitz packages. Disguise the packages, come from all angles, and get the secondary involved.

Remember that you've been here before - This is a stage that CovCath knows well, having played for state titles on that field the last two years. For Douglass, this is unlike anything their kids have experienced before. The Colonels should be loose and have their championship game day prep committed to memory. CovCath's players and coaches know what it's like to walk off that field feeling both the euphoria of victory and the bitter disappointment of defeat. Running that gamut of emotions should provide the Colonels with a psychological edge.

Frederick Douglass
Record:14-0 (35-4 since the program's inception)
BluegrassPreps Ranking: #2
Points Scored: 605 (#1 in 5A)
Points Allowed: 84 (#1 in the state)
Championship History: First Championship Game Appearance

Who to watch:

QB Josh McClurg (2,406 total yards/28 combined TDs)
RB/DB Devin Neal (713 yards from scrimmage/12 TDs/71 tackles/2 ints.)
RB Darius Neal (858 rushing yards/13 TDs)
WR Dane Key (537 yards receiving/8 TDs/4 punt return TDs)
LB Ramarcus Thompson (team high 89 tackles)
DB Jaylin Bybee (51 tackles/5 ints./2 pick-six's)
OL/DL Walker Parks and Jager Burton (combined 63 tackles/23.5 TFL/10.5 sacks/more pancakes than IHOP)

2019 Schedule
8/23 Bryan Station W 43-0
8/30 Tates Creek W 62-14
9/6 Lafayette W 40-0
9/13 Dunbar W 49-0
9/20 Henry Clay W 27-0
9/27 Scott County W 36-0
10/4 Grant County W 54-0
10/18 Great Crossing W 50-0
10/25 Montgomery County W 56-0
11/1 Lexington Catholic W 42-31
11/8 Great Crossing W 50-0
11/15 Scott County W 24-14
11/22 Southwestern W 44-8
11/29 Owensboro W 28-17

How they got here: Over the course of this season, Douglass had stared down offenses of varying degrees of explosiveness, but the semifinals gave them a taste of the first elite defense they've seen this year. Owensboro packed the state's #2 scoring defense and brought it with them to Lexington, to face the state's #1 unit in that same category. Douglass survived 28-17 due, in large part, to big defensive and special teams plays from Devin Neal and Jaylin Bybee. Neal broke a long touchdown run and took a punt back for a score, flashing raw speed unlike any the Red Devils had seen this year. And Bybee picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown.

Where they're going: Fifteen to twenty minutes down the road to play for their first state title.

There's been a lot of chatter - some good, some not - swirling around this school since it opened in 2017. A Douglass win might not silence all of the critics, but it would punctuate their meteoric ascension to the top of Kentucky high school football in just the third year of the program's existence. The talent speaks for itself, with high level college commitments and offers galore. The Broncos boast nine shutouts this season and big play potential everytime the ball is snapped, be it on offense, defense, or special teams.

Random Observations:

If you can't run at CovCath, run around them - For the uninitiated: Covington Catholic stops the run really, really well. They allow just 37 yards per game on the ground. Week after week, there's no running room to be found between the tackles, but Douglass might have the speed to attack the perimeter. Walker Parks and Jager Burton are plenty athletic enough to seal a defense off on the edges, and we know what kind of speed Devin Neal brings to the table, not to mention McClurg and Neal's brother, Darius. Look for a lot of plays designed to hit outside the tackle box.

Bring the heat, early and often - Ask Bowling Green, if you don't make Caleb Jacob uncomfortable, he will pick your defense apart. A year older and wiser than the sophomore that took the field last year against South Warren, Jacob has made great strides this season in regards to his poise, decision making, and presumably, leadership skills. If you're Douglass, those elements need to be pushed to their absolute breaking point.

The Broncos are special on special teams - Douglass has taken five kicks back for touchdowns this season, with both Dane Key and Devin Neal getting the job done. That's a Cincinnati commit and a player with offers from UK and UofL handling the ball in space. Neal returned a punt against Owensboro and had a kick-off return score called back on a block in the back. It would behoove Covington Catholic to kick away from those two.

Closing Thought

It doesn't get any better than #1 versus #2 in a state championship game, and Class 5A has been gifted with an early Christmas present this year. Historically, these two programs are nearly at opposite ends of the spectrum. Covington Catholic is looking to add an eighth state championship trophy to their rich collection of hardware. For Frederick Douglass, this is their first crack at a state championship of any kind.

As the season progressed, CovCath and Douglass emerged as the two best teams in 5A. It's only fitting that they will decide this year's champion. Regardless of which team you support, or if you have no rooting interest at all, these are the match-ups we should savor. The best versus the best. Both teams unbeaten and rarely challenged.

With the slate of games on tap, this weekend should be a treat for high school football fans around the Commonwealth.

Prediction: Covington Catholic 27 Frederick Douglass 21