By Terry Boehmker
The first time Highlands senior quarterback Donovan McCoy threw a pass in Friday’s home game against Covington Catholic it was intercepted.
Highlands ran the ball on 57 of 64 plays after that, but it wasn’t because the coaches lost faith in McCoy’s throwing arm. The Bluebirds planned to rely on their rushing attack, and that’s what carried them to a 35-21 win in the Class 4A district game.
“The big part of our game plan was to just ground and pound,” McCoy said. “We brought back our two-back (offensive) set, which (CovCath) may have been surprised by. We had a plan of just running the ball and wearing them out.”
Highlands (5-0) entered Friday’s game as the top-ranked Class 4A team in the state with CovCath (4-2) ranked second. It was the Bluebirds’ eighth consecutive win in the long-standing rivalry between the two perennial powers.
CovCath coach Dave Wirth said his defensive unit’s inability to stop the run was the key to Friday’s game.
“They just lined up and teed off on us and beat our heads in,” Wirth said.
Highlands rushed for 293 of its 348 total yards and scored four of its five touchdowns on running plays.
McCoy was the team leader with 115 yards on 27 carries. Running backs Zach Harris and Colin Seidl had a combined total of 158 yards on 17 carries.
“We knew going into the game that Harris was a hard runner and very tough,” Wirth said. “We knew McCoy was a great athlete, and he ran very hard, too.”
CovCath senior quarterback Blake Bir completed 12 of 19 passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns. His younger brother, Luke Bir, was the Colonels’ leading rusher with 85 yards on six carries.
But CovCath wasn’t nearly as efficient on offense as Highlands, which was 10-of-15 on third-down conversions.
“That was the key in the game, actually,” McCoy said. “If we don’t get a couple of those (third-down conversions), we don’t get touchdowns on those drives. When we do convert on them, we keep the drive alive and end up going down the field and scoring.”
One of the crucial drives for the Bluebirds came after CovCath tied the score, 14-14, with 4:03 left in the second quarter.
The Bluebirds picked up 67 yards on 10 plays and scored on a 5-yard pass from McCoy to senior Jac Collinsworth to take a 21-14 halftime lead.
Early in the third quarter, Highlands recovered a fumbled punt on the CovCath 18-yard line and scored eight plays later on a 3-yard run by McCoy to make it 28-14.
CovCath responded with a six-play, 70-yard scoring drive that ended with senior Matt Summe pulling down a 4-yard pass from Bir in the corner of the end zone.
That cut the Bluebirds’ lead to seven, but they scored on their next possession to regain control of the game. That drive started with a 44-yard run by Seidl and ended with six-yard run by Harris into the end zone.
“We’re just an all around better running team,” Harris said. “That’s what we’ve transformed into. Our line does great all the time and our backs are doing some great blocking, too. It’s easy to run when everybody blocks great.”
COVCATH 7-7-7-0 – 21
HIGHLANDS 0-21-14-0 – 35
CC-Egbers 2 pass from Bir (Goddard kick)
H-Seidl 9 run (kick failed)
H-Harris 11 run (McCoy run)
CC-Summe 37 pass from Bir (Goddard kick)
H-Collinsworth 5 pass from McCoy (Brockett kick)
H-McCoy 3 run (Brockett kick)
CC-Summe 4 pass from Bir (Goddard kick)
H-Harris 6 run (Brockett kick)
RECORDS: Highlands 5-0, 1-0 Class 4A; CovCath 4-2, 0-1.
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