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Class 4A football state championship preview: Boyle County vs. Covington Catholic

It’s championship weekend for the 2023 UK HealthCare Sports Medicine State Football Finals. Here’s a look at Friday’s Class 4A state title game at Kroger Field.

Boyle County (14-0) vs. Covington Catholic (14-0)

Kickoff: 8 p.m. Friday.

RPI Ratings: No. 1 Covington Catholic (.76080); No. 3 Boyle County (.74816).

Cantrall Ratings: No. 1 Boyle County (93.7); No. 2 Covington Catholic (88.2).

Championship game history: Boyle County — 11 state titles, (three-time defending 4A champs) in 13 finals appearances; Covington Catholic — eight state titles in nine finals appearances, the last a Class 5A championship in 2020.

Quick hits

Class 4A offense ranks: No. 2 Boyle County (45.2 ppg); No. 4 Covington Catholic (41.6 ppg).

Class 4A defense ranks: No. 2 Boyle County (11.8 ppg); No. 5 Covington Catholic (14.1 ppg).

The University of Kentucky has a commitment from Covington Catholic tight end Willie Rodriguez, a three-star recruit, while Boyle County has three players with Kentucky scholarship offers — Montavin Quisenberry, a junior wide-out/defensive back, Brock Driver, a junior linebacker, and Maddox Hager, a freshman tight end/defensive end.

Boyle County, founded in 1963, and Covington Catholic, playing football since 1967, have combined for nearly 1,000 wins and 19 state football titles, but have never met on the gridiron despite being in the same class for a number of years during that time, including the early 2000s in Class 3A and mid-2010s in Class 4A.

Boyle County is going for its fourth straight Class 4A state championship. This is the second such dominant run in Boyle history. The Rebels won five straight titles from 1999 to 2003, the first two in Class 2A and the last three in Class 3A, all under coach Chuck Smith.

KHSAA realignment returned Covington Catholic to Class 4A this season after it spent the last eight years in Class 5A where it won two state titles under coach Eddie Eviston (2017, 2019).

Eviston has coached two schools to two titles each, also winning in Class 2A with his alma mater, Newport Central Catholic, in 2010 and 2012.

As a player, Boyle County coach Justin Haddix led Breathitt County to a state title as its quarterback in 2002. As a coach, he finished runner-up in Class 3A with Corbin in 2017 and 2018 and won the last three Class 4A titles with the Rebels.

Boyle comes in as the lower-ranked team in the RPI Standings despite being an undefeated three-time defending Class 4A champion. That owes partly to the Rebels having played Gibson Southern (Fort Branch, Indiana), an out-of-state opponent, which hurts Boyle’s RPI rating due to the formula often grossly undervaluing non-KHSAA teams.

Both teams’ closest games have come in the playoffs. Boyle County edged out No. 4 Corbin 21-14 for a region championship two weeks ago. Covington Catholic outlasted No. 5 Paducah Tilghman 22-14 last week.

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Michael Mayer was the MVP of CovCath’s 2019 state championship win over Frederick Douglass and its first Mr. Football. Boyle has had two Mr. Footballs, Jeffery Duggins in 2001 and Lamar Dawson in 2010.

Mr. Football Watch: Since the Kentucky Football Coaches Association took up naming the state’s Mr. Football in 2019, the award has never failed to go to a state championship game most valuable player who also had the career stats to back it up. The award is given annually to a player deemed to be the state’s most outstanding senior by the KFCA. Class 4A’s top candidates (with career marks) would be:

Boyle County’s Avery Bodner (3,618 yards, 51 TDs rushing; 766 yards, 7 TDs receiving; 319 yards, 4 TDs passing; 186 tackles, 7 sacks, 6 interceptions, 4 fumbles forced, 4 recoveries, 1 for a TD).

Boyle County’s Sage Dawson (6,127 yards, 69 TDs passing; 1,210 yards, 17 TDs rushing; 206 yards, 2 TDs receiving; 87 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery for a TD).

Covington Catholic’s Evan Pitzer (3,890 yards, 44 TDs passing; 1,001 yards, 15 TDs rushing).

Boyle County will be seeking its fourth consecutive state championship when it faces Covington Catholic for the Class 4A title on Friday night.
Boyle County will be seeking its fourth consecutive state championship when it faces Covington Catholic for the Class 4A title on Friday night.

Standing out

Boyle County: Sage Dawson, Sr. QB/DB (2,378 yards, 28 TDs passing; 320 yards, 3 TDs rushing); Avery Bodner, Sr. RB/LB (1,195 yards, 20 TDs rushing; 334 yards, 4 TDs receiving; 80 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 interception); Montavin Quisenberry, Jr. WR/DB (717 yards, 17 TDs rushing; 818 yards, 12 TDs receiving; 2 punt return TDs, 2 kickoff return TDs); Demauriah Brown, Jr. WR/DB (511 yards, 5 TDs receiving; 239 yards, 3 TDs rushing; 1 kickoff return TD; 43 tackles, 5 interceptions); Geordon Brown, Jr. WR (531 yards, 8 TDs receiving).

Covington Catholic: Evan Pitzer, Sr. QB (2,556 yards, 32 TDs passing; 636 yards, 9 TDs rushing); Owen Leen, Sr. RB (834 yards, 12 TDs rushing), Braylon Miller, Sr. WR (859 yards, 8 TDs receiving); Willie Rodriguez, Sr. TE (485 yards, 12 TDs receiving), Tate Kruer, Jr. LB (109 tackles, 2 sacks).

@HLpreps pick

Boyle County 35, Covington Catholic 28.

State championships

At Kroger Field in Lexington

Tickets: Available by advance sale digitally at KHSAAtickets.org. No walk-up paper tickets sold.

Streaming broadcasts: Subscription required for live video stream at KHSAA.tv. Pay-per-view live video at Go.PrepSpin.com. Free audio stream at KHSAA.net.

FRIDAY’S GAMES

Class A: Raceland (11-3) vs. Pikeville (11-2), Noon

Class 2A: Owensboro Catholic (14-0) vs. Mayfield (12-1), 4 p.m.

Class 4A: Covington Catholic (14-0) vs. Boyle County (14-0), 8 p.m.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Class 3A: Christian Academy-Louisville (13-1) vs. Bell County (13-1), Noon

Class 6A: Bryan Station (11-3) vs. Trinity (11-3), 4 p.m.

Class 5A: Cooper (12-2) vs. Bowling Green (11-3), 8 p.m.

Class A football state championship preview: Pikeville vs. Raceland

Class 2A football state championship preview: Owensboro Catholic vs. Mayfield