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‘Crosstown Showdown’ actually crossed a couple of towns but showdown it was for CovCath-Beechwood

By Dan Weber
NKyTribune sports reporter

Covington Catholic’s annual “Braveheart” Week could not have been more perfectly timed.

Anything less than an inspired comeback from 21 points down, an effort that would have made William Wallace and his fighting Scots’ proud, would not have been enough. Not enough to send the “Colonel Crazies” cheering section, decked out in their plaid kilts (looking more like their sisters’ skirts from a local girls’ school) and bare chests painted blue, into a frenzy by overtaking an opportunistic Beechwood Tiger team in the final two minutes.

CovCath’s Braylon Miller makes his move. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

The overflow crowd well above 4,000 (standing room only doesn’t really describe it) that saw as many or more people sitting on the hillsides and standing wherever they could find a spot than in the stands, got their money’s worth. But then it’s Beechwood in a third straight game that came down to the final seconds, so what else would you expect.

The final score? 35-31. But you would have been hard-pressed to pick that number at the end of the first period when a flawless Beechwood led, 21-0, against a CovCath team that couldn’t do anything right.

“Worst first half I’ve ever played,” said CovCath quarterback Evan Pitzer after throwing two interceptions the first period that saw CovCath (5-0) fail to make a first down while Beechwood (4-1) was scoring three touchdowns.

And making all the big plays. Freshman Tyler Fryman’s diving interception set up one touchdown and his 12-yard Wildcat blast scored another. And Xavier Campbell, carted off the field a week ago with a neck injury scare that turned out to be a muscle issue, came back for a 27-yard interception TD from his middle linebacker spot.

CovCath’s Tate Kruer with leaping catch for Colonel’s first TD. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

“I think we got tired,” first-year Beechwood coach Jay Volker said of the final three quarters that saw the bigger Class 4A CovCath team outscore the Class 2A Tigers, 35-10. Beechwood had retaken the lead, 31-28, with 9:28 left on a 25-yard burst by Fryman from the Wildcat position after quarterback Clay Hayden had to leave the game following a crushing sack by CovCath’s Ben Reeves.

That’s when CovCath went on a 12-play, 64-yard game-winning drive that had the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Pitzer keeping it for seven of those plays for 24 tough yards. Although his fourth-down-and-five completion for 13 yards to Oliver Link was the difference-maker with 5:50 left.

“I’m down for anything to get the win,” Pitzer said, holding the gold Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown MVP chain and medallion. Although “I’m not entirely sure I’m the right guy for this. I’d give it to all our guys on defense.”

As to falling behind and then coming back with an offense geared to quarterback runs, Pitzer said: “Whatever Coach says, although when you get down that much . . . “

“That’s in our toolbox,” CovCath Coach Eddie Eviston said after winning his eighth game in the last nine in this series, “we practice a lot of different things.”

But a first quarter where the Colonels didn’t make a first down or complete a pass? “I don’t think he was seeing the field the way he was the first four games,” Eviston said.

Beechwood’s Xavier Campbell celelbraltes his 27-yard interception touchdown. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

Speaking of seeing the field, the Colonels warmed up in the adjacent baseball field away from the crowd and lights and noise of Edgar McNabb Stadium, arriving just in time for the coin toss, barely six minutes before kickoff.

And they played like they were late catching their train. Beechwood played exactly the opposite. “It felt like we were in control,” Volker said, “and then we looked like we got a step slow.”

At the same time, CovCath defenders like the 6-2, 230-pound senior Reeves, were speeding up. “I think it’s statement about how hard we work,” Reeves said, “that was definitely my best game.”

Just when CovCath needed it the most.

“Hold on to that feeling, you might need it again,” Eviston told his guys, explaining later. “It’s the idea of really digging down, bringing that heart and desire . . . Just because you’re down doesn’t mean you’re out.”

Getting that last drive to take 7:31 and score with 1:57 left wasn’t so much a case of “watching the clock,” Eviston said, “but just trying to move the chains.”

“I kept telling them it was going to come down to the little things,” Volker said, “and it did.” Penalties might have been the No. 1 part of that, three down the stretch for 25 yards. And a sign the smaller Tigers with less depth were just running out of gas.

That’s pretty much what the numbers said, Volker noted. In two previous down-to-the-wire games against Dixie Heights in overtime and Simon Kenton in a 58-54 game, Beechwood had maybe worn itself out a bit with lots of plays, the coach figured.

As to Pitzer’s MVP performance, “He’s really good, he’s really big, he can hurt you both ways,” Volker said. But on this night, after a five-for-13 passing first half with two interceptions, Pitzer finished the night with 11 of 21 passing for 153 yards and two touchdowns – one to Tate Kruer from 16 yards out and a second to Braylon Miller, whose reverse pivot and a crushing block allowed him to score from 28 yards out. Pitzer also ran it 25 times for 110 yards and another TD.

CovCath’s MVP Evan Pitzer throwing on the run. Photos by Dale Dawn

Hayden, meanwhile, who was shaken up with the first Reeves’ sack in the fourth quarter and sat out two series, hit on 16 of 24 for 229 yards and a TD.

Fryman continues to play not at all like a freshman, with his two Wildcat TDs on runs of 12 and 25 yards along with that early interception.

In the end, it came down to an Andrew Bessler blast from inside the 1 for the win after he came in for Owen Leen, who had already scored from the 6, after he appeared to turn an ankle.


COVCATH (5-0) 0 14 14 7—35

BEECHWOOD (4-1) 21 3 0 7—31

BEECH: Cusick pass from Hayden (Lair PAT)
BEECH: Fryman 12 run (Lair PAT)
BEECH: Campbell 27 Interception (Lair PAT)
COVCATH: Kruer 16 pass from Pitzer (Weitzel)
COVCATH: Leen 6 run (Weitzel PAT)
BEECH: Lair 28 FG
COVCATH: Pitzer 5 run (Weitzel PAT)
COVCATH: Miller 28 pass from Pitzer (Weitzel PAT)
BEECH: Fryman 25 run (Lair PAT)
COVCATH: Bessler 1 run (Weitzel PAT)

Featured photo by Dale Dawn: CovCath’s Evan Pitzer extends the ball on a diving TD

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