After a year of making play after play, the well ran dry for Johnson Central on Friday night.
The Golden Eagles were shut out in the second half and fell to Covington Catholic, 42-14, in the Class 4A region semifinals in Paintsville.
After opening the game with a 72-yard scoring drive, Johnson Central managed just one more touchdown the rest of the night.
The final tally of 14 was well below the 51 points per game the Golden Eagles were averaging heading into Friday.
“The main thing came down to normally we make big plays in games and we just didn’t make big plays tonight,” said Johnson Central coach Jim Matney. “We had chances to be in the game all night long, we just never capitalized. I thought our kids played hard, but they didn’t play well.”
After the opening drive, Covington Catholic responded with 21 straight points.
The catalyst came on the Colonels’ first play from scrimmage — a 69-yard run to the end zone by Luke Bir.
The senior had played sparingly this year after breaking his collarbone in the second game of the season.
He sat out last week’s game against Rowan County and to say he returned with vengeance would be an understatement.
“We’ve certainly missed him all year,” said Covington Catholic coach David Wirth. “We held him out last week for precautionary purposes. He’s a short squatty guy who is just fast as heck. And he took care of the ball for us tonight.”
The senior eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark after just three carries and finished with 179 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns.
Along with Bir, Covington Catholic had a huge game from sophomore quarterback Ben Dressman.
The sophomore finished with two rushing touchdowns (24- and 56-yard runs) and a 29-yard passing touchdown to receiver Mitchell Rensing. Dressman had a game-high 181 yards rushing and 49 yards passing.
After starting quarterback Austin Wagner went down earlier in the season, Dressman has had to step in and run the show.
“He’s done some unbelievable things back there,” Wirth said. “He’s a good athlete and a very good thrower. He’s very poised for a sophomore.”
There was plenty of time to be poised behind the Colonels’ offensive line.
Matney said Covington Catholic had its way with the Golden Eagles’ young D-line, which featured three sophomores and a freshman.
“Their offensive line was very good and our defensive line was very young,” Matney said. “We played like three sophomores and a freshman on the defensive line. You just don’t come into a game like this and be that young and not make any stops.”
But while Johnson Central struggled, it still had chances the entire game.
The biggest momentum-builder came before halftime with the Golden Eagles down 21-8.
With 1:15 left in the second quarter, sophomore backup quarterback Bryce Workman took a snap up the middle and bolted for an 84-yard touchdown run.
That was the last time Johnson Central saw the end zone. After Workman’s touchdown to end the first half, the Golden Eagles managed just 96 yards of total offense in the second 24 minutes.
Covington Catholic forced three straight turnovers in the fourth quarter to dash any hopes of a Johnson Central comeback. Two led to scores, including a 23-yard interception return by Alex Wagner.
“I think we were really frustrated about giving up that touchdown,” Wirth said. “The players talked more than the coaches did. They wanted to come out in the second half and set an edge. And that’s hard to do against Johnson Central because they are a good team.”
Workman finished with 91 yards while senior halfback Jordan Young finished with 83 yards and a touchdown for the Golden Eagles.
After becoming the third team in school history to finish the regular season undefeated, Johnson Central fell to Covington Catholic in the region semifinal for the second straight year.
“The undefeated season is a credit to our seniors," Matney said. “Anytime you lose it’s a sad day. But we’ll learn by it, we’ll rebuild and move on to next year.”