August 27, 2011 at 5:45 PM EST - Updated June 25 at 6:54 AM
CovCath and Dixie rekindled an old rivalry Friday night as the Blue Colonels knocked off the Red Colonels in a shootout 56-35 in the first game of a double-header as part of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown at Dixie Heights.
CovCath rallied from a 14 point deficit midway through the third quarter as running back Gabe Gray took over in the second half. The senior running back scored three straight touchdowns all within just over two minutes of each other to give Covington Catholic back the lead 35-28. He tacked on two more scores in the fourth quarter to put Dixie away and tie the school record for touchdowns in a game with five.
"The coaches just said we're going to come out and score points," Gray said about his coaches' message to the team at halftime. "We knew we were going to come back in this game and win. It was fun tonight. It was really fun."
While Gray changed the momentum of the game, two of the top quarterbacks in Northern Kentucky - CovCath junior Blake Bir and Dixie senior and Auburn commit Zeke Pike - went back and forth making big plays to keep their respective teams in the game.
Bir was efficient and accurate as he went 16-for-22 for 257 yards and three scores, including touchdown strikes of 57 yards and 31 yards in the first half. Most importantly perhaps, the junior signal-caller didn't turn the ball over.
"Our offensive line is one of the best in the state. They've had unbelievable performances the last couple of weeks," Bir said about his team's success on offense. "We're just trying to spread the ball around to different receivers and not become to predictable."
Meanwhile Pike showed how dangerous he can be when alluding the rush and extending a play as he was 22-of-36 for 336 yards and three scores despite feeling heavy pressure from the CovCath defense all night. The senior did toss up two interceptions though that gave the Colonels in blue some momentum.
CovCath drew first blood early in the game when Bir found wide receiver Charlie Mader over the middle for a 57-yard touchdown. Three plays later, Pike answered with a 56-yard scoring strike of his own down the sideline to running back Seth Bruns who took a hit and kept his balance, stumbling the last 15 yards into the endzone.
The CovCath defense bowed their backs at the end of the first quarter when they stopped Pike on a 4th and 1 on the final play of the quarter at Dixie's own 31. Bir then served up a 31-yard touchdown to Clint Massey on the first play of the second quarter. The rest of the quarter would be the Pike show though. The future Auburn Tiger ran a touchdown in from a yard out after Bruns got them into scoring position by taking a screen pass 40 yards into the redzone. Pike then ran an impressive two-minute drill to close out the half and capped it off with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Catchen with 1.7 seconds left to give the Red Colonels a 21-14 lead heading into the locker rooms.
The second half started off looking like trouble for CovCath as Dixie's offense marched right down the field and Pike ran it in from seven yards out to make it 28-14 with 7:42 left in the third quarter. That set the stage for Gray's third quarter heroics and his three straight touchdowns. Sophomore Sam Dressman then made it a fourth straight touchdown by CovCath when he ran it in on a direct snap from a yard out. That score was setup by a 38-yard pass from Bir to Mitch McDowell over the middle down to the one yardline.
Pike got Dixie back into the game at the beginning of the third quarter when he showed off how dangerous he can be when he extended a play while keeping his eyes downfield and found wide receiver Goose Cohorn for a 76-yard touchdown.
"We talked about getting pressure and not getting sacks," CovCath head coach Dave Wirth said talking about Pike after the game. "You see how elusive he is and how hard he is to bring down. He's very dangerous in that environment. We were playing against a major division-I quarterback tonight on a high school field and he made us look silly a few times but we got him a few times. I'm glad the SEC's got to deal with him now."
Gray tacked on two more fourth quarter scores though with a screen pass that he took in from 10 yards out and a 61 yard scamper to give CovCath it's 21-point victory 56-35. Gray finished with 20 carries for 223 yards and four rushing touchdowns to go along with his one receiving touchdown.
The CovCath offense rolled up 517 yards of total offense with 260 coming on the ground and 257 coming from the right wing of Bir. They scored 42 points in their opener against Campbell County.
CovCath advances to 2-0 on the year, while Dixie falls to 0-2 with Highlands on the schedule next week.