Sometimes one team makes plays while the other one doesn’t.
Covington Catholic got big plays from the arm, and legs, of quarterback Blake Bir to sail past Johnson Central 45-15 in a Class 4A second round playoff game on Friday.
Johnson Central coach Jim Matney said when it comes down to it, his team was just outplayed by Covington Catholic.
“We just didn’t play very well,” Matney said. “And they played well and they made big play after big play after big play.”
After Johnson Central’s opening drive stalled, Covington Catholic took over, and penalties forced them into a first-and-25 situation.
Bir responded to the penalty by running for 33 yards on the next play, scoring the game’s opening touchdown.
After a Johnson Central three-and-out, Bir delivered again for the Colonels with a 10-yard touchdown run.
After a long bus ride, Covington Catholic was pretty happy that a quarterback, known more for his arm, was able to use his legs so effectively.
“For a high school football quarterback coming off a four-hour bus ride, against a good team, in a hostile environment, that’s a pretty good performance,” said Covington Catholic coach David Wirth.
Bir finished the game 17-of-25 passing for 287 yards with two touchdown passes and had five carries for 76 yards with two rushing touchdowns.
After Bir’s second TD run, Johnson Central running back Daymion Belcher fumbled on the first play of the following drive.
Defensive lineman Spencer Hemmer took the ball 28 yards and gave Covington Catholic a 21-0 first quarter lead.
“That’s a big play,” Wirth said. “That fumble return for a touchdown broke the game wide open. It was like a cleat in the middle of the back and it was hard for them to recover from.”
But Johnson Central (9-3) scored on the very next drive, when Belcher took the ball 23 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.
Belcher was a bright spot for the Golden Eagles — the sophomore finished with 126 rushing yards on 18 carries to go with one touchdown.
“He ran hard and played well for a sophomore,” Matney said about Belcher.
But when the Golden Eagles needed a stop, the Colonels found a way to keep drives going.
After the Johnson Central scoring drive, Covington Catholic answered with a four-minute drive that ended with backup quarterback Sam Dressman barreling into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown.
All Matney could do was watch, as after a tough season his team seemed beaten up. It struggled to keep pace with Covington Catholic’s high-speed pace.
“We went as far as our bodies could take us,” Matney said. “I think our schedule towards the end of the season hurt us a bit because we were awfully banged up.
“Anytime you play Ironton, Ashland and Belfry in a row, I think it’s hard to recuperate from that.”
Wirth said his team’s spread out, fast-paced offense worked well against Johnson Central’s defense that featured players that play both ways.
“I think our offense’s ability to vary the pace and go really fast and wear them out is big,” Wirth said. “And then at the end being able to slow it down and frustrate them was just as important.”
In the second half up 28-7, Covington Catholic opened up the second half scoring with a 53-yard screen pass to Ethan Egbers.
Johnson Central got a 1-yard touchdown run by Jordan Young, but Covington Catholic’s following drive ended with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Bir to Matt Summe. The play came after Johnson Central backed Covington Catholic up to a third-and-12 position.
Covington Catholic’s ability to make big plays on third down, and its 451 total yards compared to Johnson Central’s 184, were the keys to the game, Matney said.
“We just didn’t make the big plays and they did,” Matney said. “It’s as simple as that. Normally we’re able to finish those drives up and we weren’t able to tonight.”
Sometimes one team makes plays while the other one doesn’t.
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Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)
The Fleming County Panthers waited nearly an hour to ascend the ladders set up under the goals at Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Tuesday night.
To the victor belongs the spoils, which traditionally includes the nets after winning a tournament title. But Fleming County milled around on Morehead State’s floor taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere after handling Ashland 82-59 in the 16th Region Tournament final.
Snipping the twine was almost an afterthought. In fact, except for a minute or so of celebration with their student section immediately following the final buzzer, the Panthers didn’t really even seem all that excited.
They expected to be here, and they were all business after earning back-to-back region titles and trips to Rupp Arena.
AARON SNYDER: Truth or Dare unkind to ’Cats
Ashland was left feeling like the shy kid after an intense game of Truth or Dare.
Truth: Fleming County outrebounded Ashland, 39-24, after Ashland outdueled Greenup County by 10 the night before.
'Relaxed' Steward earns MVP award
Both Fleming County coach Mark Starns and stellar senior Troy Steward attributed his significant strides this season to aggressiveness.
Playing a part, too, in Steward earning the 16th Region Tournament Most Valuable Player award was the lack of nerves, which were nearly overwhelming at times a year ago.
Central's 15th Region reign continues
Once was good.
Twice was nice.
Three was sweet for the Johnson Central Eagles.
Senior Slade McPeek scored 22 points and earned most valuable player honors Tuesday night as Johnson Central rolled past Shelby Valley, 81-56, for its third straight 15th Region championship at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
- Fleming goes for two: Panthers beat Ashland for 16th Region repeat Fleming County pulled away early and never looked back as the Panthers pounced on Ashland, winning 82-59 in the 16th Region championship game on Tuesday in Morehead. Fleming County will face Scott County in the Sweet Sixteen next Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
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- Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)