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So far, so good for CovCath football’s 50th anniversary

October 12, 2017 FieldsColumn

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Covington Catholic quarterback AJ. Mayer and Coach Eddie Eviston. The Colonels are 7-0 and the top-ranked team in Kentucky. (Photo by Mike Fields)

BY MIKE FIELDS

Covington Catholic’s 50th anniversary of its varsity football program is going quite nicely, thank you.

The Colonels kicked off the season by dedicating renovated Dennis Griffin Stadium, a $2.6 million project that included new stands, press box, artificial turf, and permanent lighting for the first time.

Since then CovCath has steamrolled its way to a 7-0 record (by an average score of 40-8) and earned the No. 1 perch in the Courier-Journal’s Litratings.

In A.J. Mayer, the Colonels may have the best quarterback in the state, a guy who could lead them to a seventh state championship, and the first undefeated season in school history. 

On Friday night, when CovCath plays host to northern Kentucky nemesis Highlands, it will continue to celebrate the program’s 50th anniversary. The Colonels’ six state title teams, as well as their 1967 team, will be honored during post-game festivities.

Former coach Lynn Ray, the man most responsible for building the Colonels into a state power, will address the crowd. 

Ray has been part of CovCath football for almost its entire history.

“There’s no doubt he’s the face of Covington Catholic football,” said current coach Eddie Eviston. “He made the program what it is.”

Ray was a Colonels assistant for three years before taking over as head coach in 1975. CovCath went 0-10 and 1-10 his first two seasons, but he stuck to his plan.

“I always believed in what we were doing,” he said, “and that we’d eventually win if we kept doing it.”

Ray’s basic philosophy was simple: “We always tried to be in better shape than the other team. We always tried to be tougher than the other team. And we always tried to be more disciplined than the other team.”

CovCath broke through and won the Class 3A title in 1987, the first of five state championships in 11 years.

This photo from the 1987 championship season shows Coach Lynn Ray and star linebacker Mike Wolfe. (Cincinnati Enquirer photo)

The Colonels also captured the big trophy in ’88, ’93, ’94 and ’97 under Ray.

He retired after the 2004 season with 234 victories in 30 years. He stayed away for a few seasons, and wasn’t part of John Rodenberg’s staff when CovCath won the state title in 2006. But Ray returned as a volunteer assistant in 2009, and currently helps out a couple days a week.

This year’s Colonels seem to have to a great chance at becoming only the second team in school history to go undefeated in the regular season. In 1992, the Colonels were also No. 1 in the state as they went 12-0 before losing to Highlands 14-7 in the playoffs (after beating the Bluebirds 41-21 in the regular season). That ’92 team was led by first-team all-state quarterback Adam McCormack.

So far this season Mayer has played like a first-team all-state QB.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior, who has commited to Miami (Ohio), has thrown for 1,486 yards and 18 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He’s also rushed for 6 TDs. A three-year starter, he’s closing in on 6,000 passing yards for his career with 55 TDs.

“What’s great about A.J. is that he strives to get better,” Eviston said. “He’s such a competitive person, he’s going to soak up everything anybody can provide him on how to make his game better. It’s awesome to see how he’s developed the last three years.”

Mayer said having Eviston, a former star QB at Newport Central Catholic and Georgetown College, is perfect match.

“We’re both very, very competitive, and having a guy like that that I can relate to is great,” Mayer said. “He makes me better.”

Mayer had a big game against Highlands last year. He ran for four TDs and threw for another as CovCath demolished the Bluebirds 63-26, ending a 14-game losing streak to its arch-rival.

When Eviston was playing at NewCath in the mid-1990s, and when he was NewCath’s coach from 2010-12 (and won 2 state titles), he always took notice when CovCath and Highlands played each other.

“Everybody in northern Kentucky knew when that game was coming up,” he said. “Everybody had an appreciation and respect for that whole thing.”

Now in his third year as CovCath coach, Eviston has an up-close view of the rivalry and “now I can see what the hype is all about.”

If CovCath can beat Highlands Friday night, it’ll rachet up the hype surrounding the Colonels’ 50th anniversary even more. 

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