PARK HILLS – The Covington Catholic football team spent nearly as much time last year tending to a MASH unit as it did mashing opponents.
Despite several key injuries, the Colonels compiled an imposing 10-3 record in 2013, although once again they could not get over the Highlands hump and smash their rival Bluebirds, losing twice to them.
“Our expectations are the same if we’re playing our first-string guys or our third-string guys,” said head coach Dave Wirth. “That’s one of the joys and the challenges at being a school like Cov Cath that has a good football tradition. We’re trying to work through some things and make sure we have people in the right places and find ways to get our best players get the ball and that the other team’s best players don’t get too many yards.”
Wirth is 41-22 at Cov Cath as he enters his sixth season, and 68-47 overall.
He returns a great deal of talent and experience at quarterback in Ben Dressman and Adam Wagner. Dressman, a junior, threw for 2,721 yards in nine games as a starter. He had 19 touchdown passes and 10 on the ground with 911 yards. Adam Wagner, a senior, completed 29-of-37 passes last year for 400 yards and three TDs after being injured early in the year.
“No matter what, they’re both going to be on the field,” Wirth said. “Unfortunately you can’t play with two footballs. We’ll have them both in there at QB. We’re in a really good position because we have two guys who most other teams would like to have. They’re great athletes who are very fast and tough and they throw the ball well.”
Junior running back Ben Darlington had 391 yards on the ground with six TDs last year and is much stronger and faster this year, Wirth said. Senior Lee McClure is the top returning receiver. He had 21 catches for 335 yards and four TDs. He and receiving teammate Logan McDowell were half of last year’s state track sprint champions in the 4×100 relay.
“We’re bigger and better at offensive line, and some of the receivers are the best I’ve ever had as a coach,” Wirth said. “We have some firepower but they’re going to have to execute and make sure they’re in the right place at the right time.”
Senior safety Alex Wagner, twin brothers with Adam, was a force, having 69 tackles including five for loss and four sacks. He forced six fumbles.
“We’re a really close group and I think we’ll lead our team and do great things this year,” Alex Wagner said. “We’re really explosive on offense and defensively. We have a lot of guys who got a lot of time last year because of injuries, which wasn’t a good thing for last year but is good for now.”
Senior Sam Murrer has multiple Division I offers including Miami University. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound specimen is big, athletic and physical.
Junior Cameron Pitzer led the team with 80 tackles last year. The outside linebacker has Division I frame and athleticism, Wirth said, and also intercepted two passes.
Senior safety Ben Zumdick posted 63 tackles including three for loss, and two sacks. He is 6-3, 195. Senior defensive lineman Nate Bailey posted 40 tackles, five for loss, with three sacks.
Among top newer contributors to watch, senior cornerback Drew Demarsh posted 17 tackles and an interception last year. Senior cornerback Caleb Summe moved over from running back late last season and has potential. The secondary is a preseason concern with graduation losses from last year.
Wirth is happy with his talent as he focuses on getting it all in sync.
“The thing I like the most is the feel of the team, the esprit de corps,” he said. “They’re developing their identity and chemistry, which to me is about as important as anything else. You have teams with different styles, but what you find every year is that the teams that go the farthest have the best chemistry. Our guys are getting better at that.”
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Aug. 23: Vs. Boone County, 1 p.m.
Aug. 30: Vs. Dixie Heights, 1 p.m. (Skyline Crosstown Showdown)
Sept. 5: At Cincinnati Moeller, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 13: Vs. Henderson County, 1 p.m.
Sept. 26: At Highlands, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: Vs. Beechwood, 1 p.m.
Oct. 10: At Ryle, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18: Vs. Harrison County, 1 p.m.
Oct. 24: At Holmes, 7 p.m.
Oct. 31: At Conner, 7 p.m.