PARK HILLS, Ky. – The quantity and severity of injuries sustained by Covington Catholic this week and last has left both players and coaches stunned.
On Saturday, the Colonels lost three more key players in a 45-7 loss to Cincinnati Moeller at Wooten Field.
Junior quarterback Adam Wagner and top running back senior Luke Bir both were knocked out for the remainder of the regular season in CovCath’s win over Dixie Heights last week, and the Colonels’ sideline was again transformed into a triage unit this week.
“It makes me wonder what I did in my past life,” CovCath coach Dave Wirth said. “It has a compounding effect because it puts kids on the field that aren’t ready, and that’s a dangerous thing against a team like Moeller.”
Backup quarterback senior Sam Dressman, starting in place of the injured Wagner, did not finish and sported an ice bag on his shoulder afterward, and senior receiver Evan Braun went out early after taking a punishing hit and had his arm in a splint.
Senior linebacker Blake Nelms appeared to injure his ankle and missed a substantial portion of the game.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” senior wide receiver Sam Hatter said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Moeller was stopped at the CovCath 25 on its first drive and took the lead on a 42-yard field goal by sophomore Matthew Coghlin.
The Colonels were effective on their first possession, driving 62 yards keyed by a 43-yard run by Hatter on a reverse. But CovCath was stopped on fourth and 8 at the Crusaders’ 18.
The Colonels’ defense bent but did not break again, as senior defensive back Matt Schmahl intercepted a pass in the end zone after Moeller had taken it 78 yards to the CovCath 4.
But the Colonels fumbled on their next possession, giving the Crusaders the ball at the CovCath 38, and eight running plays and an incompletion later, Moeller made it 10-0.
The Crusaders capitalized on another Colonels turnover, as a CovCath pass hit a receiver and popped up in the air before being grabbed by Moeller senior defensive back Evan Heeter. The Crusaders marched down the field and made it 17-0 just 16 seconds into the second quarter.
After the Colonels went three-and-out, Moeller scored on the ensuing possession and once more before the half to put the game out of reach.
CovCath’s lone bright spot came late in the third quarter, when third-string quarterback sophomore Ben Dressman fired a bomb down the left sideline for a 49-yard touchdown to a wide open junior Mitchell Rensing.
Moeller quarterbacks Gus Ragland and Matt Crable combined to go 27-for-34 for 353 yards and four touchdowns.
Junior Chase Pankey and senior Jack Gruber were the QB tandem’s top targets, catching eight passes each. Pankey finished with 133 receiving yards and a pair of scores, and Gruber added 86 yards in receptions and one TD.
The Crusaders outgained CovCath, 531-196.
Ben Dressman, logging significant varsity snaps under center for the first time, went 4-for-9 for 66 yards and one touchdown.
Wirth drew a parallel between Ben Dressman’s forced acclimation to the varsity game and Highlands in 2009 when Patrick Towles was pressed into service because of an injury to Will Bardo. Towles ended up having a phenomenal career with the Bluebirds at QB.
“We’re going to win a lot of games this year with this kid,” Wirth said. “Ben’s going to be very good.”
Wirth said that Sam Dressman was taken out as a precaution and is not expected to miss any action.
at COVCATH 0-0-7-0—7
M-Coghlin FG 42
M-Gruber 5 pass from Ragland (Coghlin kick)
M-Yett 14 run (Coghlin kick)
M-Hausmann 12 pass from Raglan (Coghlin kick)
M-Pankey 4 pass from Crable (Coghlin kick)
M-Ragland 24 run (Coghlin kick)
CC-Rensing 49 pass from B. Dressman (B. Dressman kick)
M-Pankey 60 pass from Crable (Coghlin kick)
RECORDS: Moeller 2-0, CovCath 2-1.