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.”