By Terry Boehmker
FORT THOMAS, Ky. – Highlands senior quarterback Donovan McCoy turned in one of his best performances of the season Friday when his team defeated Covington Catholic, 28-13, in the regional finals of the Class 4A playoffs.
McCoy scored all four of the Bluebirds’ touchdowns and had 229 all-purpose
yards in the victory. But he would gladly have given the game ball to his team’s defensive unit that intercepted a pass in the first half and recovered three CovCath fumbles in the second half.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” McCoy said. “They played great, especially in the second half. They’ve really stepped up in the past few weeks. I look for them to be a nightmare for opposing offenses from here on out.”
Highlands (12-1) will play Lexington Catholic (11-2) in the state semifinals next week. If the Bluebirds win that game, they’ll go for their sixth consecutive state championship on Nov. 30 at Western Kentucky University.
When CovCath (9-4) scored on its first possession in Friday’s game, it looked like Highlands’ run of state titles might be in jeopardy. But the Bluebirds managed to come out on top by making big plays on offense and forcing turnovers on defense.
McCoy completed a 45-yard pass to Luke Brockett that set up the Bluebirds’ first touchdown and threw a 53-yard pass to Luke Turner on the first play of the team’s second scoring drive.
The senior quarterback capped off both of those possessions with short runs into the end zone and Highlands led 14-7 at halftime.
“Those were huge,” McCoy said of the two long pass plays. “It was just such a big momentum shift. We throw it up and the wide receiver makes a play downfield for us, and all of a sudden we’re deep in their territory.”
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, CovCath quarterback Blake Bir fumbled a botched handoff and Highlands linebacker Brady Murray recovered the ball on the 25-yard line.
Six plays later, McCoy bulled his way across the goal line for his third touchdown of the game and Brockett converted the extra-point kick to make it 21-7.
CovCath put together a 68-yard scoring drive on its next possession and trimmed the margin to eight, 21-13 on an 11-yard touchdown run by Bobby Beatrice with 6:31 left in the third quarter.
But Highlands senior Colin Seidel returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards to give his team good field position and McCoy made the most of it. During an 11-play, 48-yard drive, McCoy completed two passes for 13 yards and carried five times for 21 yards, including a 2-yard run into the end zone.
“You never know what you’ve going to have in a game and what they’re going to leave open,” McCoy said. “Four rushing touchdowns is what they gave us and that’s what we took.”
CovCath was not able to score on its last four possessions with fumbles putting an end to two of them.
Bir had the ball knocked out of his hands while scrambling to avoid a sack and Highlands linebacker Reid Schroder pounced on it.
On the Colonels’ final possession, Kyle Massie caught a pass deep in Highlands’ territory, but the ball popped out when he was hit and Highlands defensive back Quentin Murray recovered it.
Bir was also sacked four times by Highlands defensive lineman Seth Hope, who made 10 tackles during the game.
“Bir is a really, really good quarterback,” Hope said. “When we were getting to him it kind of took away their passing attack, which is the center of their team, so that really helped us.”
Highlands finished with 274 total yards. McCoy was the team’s top rusher with 84 yards on 28 carries. He also completed eight of 13 passes for 145 yards.
CovCath had 258 total yards with Bir leading the way. He completed 19 of 29 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown. The Colonels just didn’t take care of the ball very well.
“When you turn the ball over four times you’re not going to win too many games,” Bir said. “A lot of that is probably on me, but I don’t know.”
at HIGHLANDS 7-7-14-0–28
CC-Dressman 9 pass from Bir (Goddard kick)
H-McCoy 1 run (Brockett kick)
H-McCoy 4 run (Brockett kick)
H-McCoy 1 run (Brockett kick)
CC-Beatrice 11 run (kick failed)
H-McCoy 2 run (Brockett kick)
RECORDS: Highlands 12-1, CovCath 9-4.
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