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NKY High School Football Spotlight: Covington Catholic

Covington Catholic football has a lot of new elements to it this year. Most prominent among the recent changes is new head coach Eddie Eviston who replaced last year’s coach Dave Wirth in the offseason. Eviston comes most recently from Georgetown College and has already dug into his new roster.

“These players have been very open-minded about new staff coming in and seeing them in a different way than they have been seen,” Eviston said. “We might move some guys to new places and we do that so that we can be successful, and they’re buying into that. They’re open-minded to moving to help the team, so that’s been good.”

Another big change for the Colonels in 2015 is a new district, as KHSAA has bumped them up from Class 4A to Class 5A.  Joining them in that district is last year’s 6A State Championship runner-up Dixie, as well as Grant County, and CovCath’s old rival and defending 4A State Champion Highlands.

“It’s a great district with two schools coming off of a state run. We’re excited about it to be able to be in the 5A,” Eviston said.

Last season, the Colonels’ offensive philosophy was based on spread formations designed to get the ball quickly out to their speedy receivers on the outside to let them operate in the open field. Eviston’s scheme, though, will have some run-and-shoot elements that will be incorporated into the spread formations of the past.

“We are kind of a run-and-shoot offense. There has always been these hybrid-type of offenses, so we have some spread, but we also have a lot of run-and-shoot concepts as well so it’s kind of a marriage between the two,” he said. “We do have that philosophy that we want to get the ball in the hands of our fast guys as quickly as possible and have them do things, but we also need to be able to run the ball. That element of our offense is key and something we will do and not just say.”

Who will be throwing passes in the offense is still a question mark. Some of the players on the roster a year ago that were assumed to be quarterback options are no longer with the team, so Eviston and his staff need to find—and groom—the talent that exists in training camp this summer. It seems the front-runner to land that starting spot is sophomore A.J. Mayer who has worked under center with the Colonels in practice since June.

“We’re young with not much game experience at all, but I think we have the right guys at the right place. I think people who might not know who these guys are now will hopefully know in the middle of the year as the season progresses,” Eviston said. “A.J. Mayer is doing a really good job. He’s had the most reps because a couple of our guys are baseball guys, so they weren’t with us in the spring. He was the first one back come June while some other guys weren’t quite back, so he’s gotten the most reps and the best grasp of what we’re doing offensively.”

There are other players currently listed at quarterback on the depth chart that may end up at another position if Mayer wins out in the summer competition. No matter who it is, the quarterback will benefit from having an experienced offensive line in front of them.  

“Offensively we have a strong senior group up front on the offensive line. They have to be our go-to people. In my eyes, it doesn’t matter what class they’re in. We have to rally behind them and count on them so they will determine how well our offense does.”

Defensively, CCH also has some key veterans on that side of the ball as well. School president Ethan Salmons is slated to start at linebacker along with junior Alex Shelton to form a well-rounded linebacker corps. Eviston intends to play more of a four-man front than what previous coach Dave Wirth ran last year has head coach.

“Everybody’s defensive schemes are kind of set up to stop the spread, but our other philosophy is if we can’t stop the run, we’ll get carved up. We want to make sure we can stop the run as much as possible and then handle the spread.”

With that kind of approach on defense, open field tackling becomes paramount to stop the spread. Teams across the state are limited in terms of how much contact a team can have in practice, so in today’s football world coaches have to rely on other methods to get their players ready for live action on the field.

“Tackling is something that we addressed early. Everyone is limited on contact. We saw that coming and kind of forecasted that. We will work a lot of our tackling drills on air or on a dummy so that we don’t have that player-to-player collision as much. We have to be great open field tacklers,” said Eviston.

Last year, the Colonels found a lot of hidden yardage and explosive plays in the kick and punt return game that benefitted them to racking up some key wins during a solid season. That element of the game is something that Eviston recognizes the importance of and has kept himself and his staff from overlooking in the sessions leading up to the season opener.

“That’s one thing as you go through the summer that sometimes you put on the backburners, but we have addressed it as a staff, we have addressed it with our players and we do a lot of technique stuff for it. It’s very important to us that we don’t miss that third component of the game. We’ll drill it hard.”

Also new this year is the playing surface that was installed this past week. Even though the lights on the field will not be ready until the 2016 season, CovCath is still going to kick its season off on a Friday evening at home at 5:30 p.m. against Ryle.  

Story by Bryan Burke, associate editor/Photo: RCN file