On a Friday night that was one day shy of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, CovCath gave one of its lost alumni something to be proud of with the victory.
The school honored Brian Williams, a 1990 CovCath graduate who died in one of the World Trade Center towers after it collapsed on 9/11. He was an all-state tight end for CovCath football and helped the Colonels win two state championships.
Students and staff wore a shirt with Williams’ jersey number 81 on it. CovCath held an 81-second moment of silence for him before the national anthem. Family members and friends of Williams were honored on the field at halftime, and they are having a golf outing on Saturday.
The CovCath community has something to celebrate after defeating Dixie Heights 24-8 in a battle of Colonels. Both teams left CovCath's Dennis Griffin Stadium with 2-2 records.
“I feel pretty good,” said CovCath senior Preston Agee. “It’s nice to get a win like that, especially after playing with them growing up. It’s just something we’ve worked for all week.”
Said CovCath head coach Eddie Eviston: “We’ve already had two losses on the year so it’s good to get another win under our belt. We’re still growing as a team. I like our kids. We battled.”
CovCath has now won 14 in a row against the red Colonels from down the street on Dixie Highway.
CovCath has yet to develop the consistently potent offense enjoyed by Colonel fans the past few years, after six years of standout quarterback play by Miami University starter A.J. Mayer and Caleb Jacob; and record-setters such as Casey McGinness and Notre Dame sophomore Michael Mayer.
The blue Colonels have mainly relied on the running game so far, averaging 202 rushing yards per game.
But the blue Colonels, who were wearing black uniforms Friday, enjoyed a strong defensive effort, forcing three turnovers and shutting down an explosive Dixie offense with experienced weapons.
And CovCath got two, big explosive plays on offense at key times while keeping the red Colonels from big plays of their own.
Dixie came in with veteran senior quarterback Logan Landers and two of the fastest receivers in Northern Kentucky in Devin Holbert and Kel Hawkins. And Dixie had averaged 270 yards rushing the past two weeks.
But CovCath kept them from scoring.
“That’s a good team over there. A big, physical team, so I’m happy with how our guys performed,” Eviston said. “Our defense really buckled down this week and concentrated on playing disciplined football, doing their jobs. That showed tonight. Everybody did their job and didn’t try to do too much, and they played well together.”
Said Agee: “We primarily focused on their key players. We knew they had some weapons. Our secondary put in a lot of work. Coaching was A1 this week. Every week it feels like it’s getting better and better. We all have chemistry in the secondary and that prevented some big plays.”
Clutch defense told the tale as CovCath took a 10-0 lead after one quarter.
Dixie drove into CovCath territory on the first drive of the game, then fumbled. Junior Aiden Jones picked up the loose ball near midfield and returned it to the Dixie 14. The blue Colonels’ drive stalled, and Eli Nally’s field goal gave CovCath a 3-0 lead.
Dixie drove to the CovCath 27 on its next possession, but CovCath held on fourth down, forcing Landers into a long pass into the end zone which fell incomplete.
On CovCath’s next drive, senior quarterback Adam Holtz found senior Dennis Lenihan wide open behind the defense and completed a long pass to him for a 63-yard touchdown.
“I rolled out and saw him get open over the top. He’s a good player,” Holtz said. “It was good to get the flow going our way early.”
In the second quarter, Dixie drove twice into CovCath territory but the blue Colonels intercepted Landers both times.
Agee stepped in front of a receiver and intercepted a pass near the sideline, returning it to the Dixie 35.
Agee credited film study and coaching for the pick.
“I knew it was coming and I was just waiting for it to happen,” he said.
Later, senior Robby Sandfoss intercepted a pass after the intended receiver fell, returning that to the Dixie 35.
CovCath came up empty in both ensuing drives, as Dixie stopped CovCath on fourth down from its 15 on the first one.
Later, Nally missed a 40-yard field goal at the end of the half one play after a 13-yard sack by Dixie’s Owen Lawrence.
“Any time you force a turnover, good things happen,” Eviston said. “I wish offensively, we could have capitalized more on those turnovers, but the defense did a good job tonight.”
The third quarter was all punts for both teams until CovCath senior Brayden Collins broke free for a 40-yard run, setting up a short TD run by Nick Darpel early in the fourth quarter.
CovCath moved the ball down field on its next drive, primarily on the ground, and Collins scored to give CovCath a 24-0 lead with less than four minutes to go.
Dixie Heights senior Aumad Edwards broke up the shutout by returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Dixie tried an onside kick, and the blue Colonels recovered, then were able to run out the clock.
CovCath had only 237 yards offense on the night but limited Dixie to 148.
Eviston said that while his players weren’t born when 9/11 happened and never met Brian Williams, the dedications were special for everyone.
“It’s a special tribute,” he said. “Everybody says ‘Never forget’ and I know a lot of people will never forget that. The way our country is right now, it’s good to see a little bit of unity and I think we saw that tonight with both teams.”
Dixie Heights 0 0 0 8-8
Cov. Catholic 10 0 0 14-24
C – Nally 28 FG
C – J. Lenihan 53 pass from Holtz (Nally kick)
C – Darpel 2 run (Nally kick)
C – Collins 4 run (Nally kick)
D – Edwards kickoff return (Hawkins pass from Landers)
Records: DH 2-2, CC 2-2