With 23 combined state championships between them, the rivalry will always be fierce when Beechwood and Covington Catholic get together on the football field.
Friday night’s marquee matchup saw the rivalry fever in rare form, as a standing-room and sitting-down only crowd watched the two teams who are only two miles apart on Dixie Highway. Dozens of fans sat on the available green space in the corners of the stadium, or strained to get the best view they could from the baseball field above.
Beechwood fans went home happy after a 27-7 win over the Colonels. Beechwood improved to a perfect 5-0, while CovCath dropped to 2-3.
“It was not just for our team, but for our whole city,” said Beechwood senior quarterback Cameron Hergott. “It was a city rivalry. They’re the team down the street. Last year we came up short, and this year it means a lot, especially with the big crowd and the atmosphere.”
Beechwood snapped a six-game losing streak to the Colonels, which began in head coach Eddie Eviston’s first year. Eviston was 6-0 against the Tigers until tonight.
“It was awesome,” said Beechwood senior lineman Luke Slusher. “They came here sophomore year and we got beat bad, and last year we didn’t have any crowds at all. So today, you couldn’t hear anything because of the crowd, and it was awesome.”
The Tigers prevailed in a fast-moving contest that had several long drives and very few passes. Beechwood’s defense stifled the CovCath offense, holding a team to seven points or less for the fourth time this season after beginning the year with three shutouts in a row.
CovCath is a run-oriented team this year, and Beechwood used its strength up front, with the massive Slusher playing defensive line, something he doesn’t normally do.
Brady Moore, Beechwood’s standout safety, loved his group’s effort.
“We’ve been playing together for I don’t know how many years,” he said. “We play as a team. You know your teammate’s going to be there where he’s supposed to be. We all know we have each other’s back.”
Setting the tone was Hergott, who rushed for about 160 yards on the night. Most of those came on his first two runs of the game.
On the first play from scrimmage, he scampered for 62 yards deep into CovCath territory. Mitchell Berger finished the drive from short yardage to give Beechwood a 7-0 lead.
On the first play of the second quarter, Hergott sprinted up the middle and outran the Colonels for a 50-yard score to put Beechwood up 13-0. He surpassed 3,000 career rushing yards during the game.
“The first play of the game sets the tone for the rest of the game, and I tried to make something happen,” he said. “It was a pass. No one was open and they were blitzing a lot, so I just took off. I could tell our whole team’s confidence went up. Our crowd went nuts.”
CovCath kept the ball on the ground for two very long drives in the first half. CovCath’s first drive lasted 6 minutes and 32 seconds, but ended in a missed field goal.
After Hergott’s long TD run, the Colonels chewed up nine and a half minutes on the clock, culminating in a 5-yard TD run by quarterback Adam Holtz, and Beechwood led 13-7.
The Tigers seized the momentum back right away as Parker Mason returned the kickoff to the CovCath 12-yard line. Hergott leapt over the line four plays later for a touchdown with 12 seconds left in the first half, and Beechwood led 20-7 at the break.
“That was a really physical game,” said Beechwood head coach Noel Rash. “CovCath is one hell of a football team. We played our butts off and I’m proud as heck of our guys. Man oh man, did they play at a level that is necessary to get us where we want to go.”
CovCath got the ball to start the second half but couldn’t sustain anything. Beechwood sophomore lineman Xavier Campbell made an athletic play to tackle a CovCath runner for a seven-yard loss, and senior Slusher deflected a pass on third down.
Beechwood responded with a scoring drive that lasted more than eight minutes. Hergott threw one pass on the drive, a 13-yard completion to Brett Holladay.
Hergott, Beechwood’s fifth-year starting quarterback, said the defensive play has taken a lot of pressure off of him.
“It makes me feel so much better,” he said. “Being able to rely on our defense to get the huge stops is so important. We have a lot of confidence in our defense and they have done a phenomenal job all year, so I’m excited.”
Beechwood has its bye week next week before going a little further down Dixie Highway to visit Dixie Heights Oct. 1. CovCath hosts Cooper next week in their 5A district opener.