COVINGTON — Conner quarterback and University of Kentucky commitment Drew Barker made no excuses for his team, and he didn't try to sugarcoat his own subpar performance after the Cougars lost to Covington Catholic 40-6 Saturday afternoon.
If CovCath hadn't missed a couple extra-point kicks, there would have been a mercy-rule running clock late in the third quarter.
"We just got whupped," Barker said. "Maybe it was a lack of focus, I'm not really sure. It was a tough day. It's mind-boggling."
CovCath, avenging a bitter 13-12 loss to Conner last year, piled up 495 yards to Conner's 157.
The Colonels' defense never let Barker get in a rhythm. He had almost as many punts (six) as completions (seven).
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior came into the game having thrown for 2,290 yards and 29 touchdowns this year to go with 644 rushing yards and nine TDs. He didn't find the end zone with his arm or his feet against CovCath.
He completed seven of 18 passes for 56 yards. His receivers had at least four drops. He threw one deep ball that was incomplete.
Barker ran the ball seven times for 43 yards and fumbled it away twice.
Asked to rate his performance on a scale of 1-to-10, Barker was blunt: "Probably a one." He said he knew it was going to be a bad day when he fumbled on a scramble in the first quarter. He lost another fumble late in the half that led to a CovCath TD that made it 27-6.
"I've never fumbled in my whole life, pee-wee or anything, then I had two fumbles here in one game," he said.
CovCath, rated No. 11 in the state and Highlands' archrival in Class 4A, has had a slew of injuries this year. At one point early in the season, the Colonels were missing nine of 22 starters, including star linebacker Sam Burchell (foot) who is still sidelined.
Junior quarterback Adam Wagner (knee) also is still out, but sophomore Ben Dressman has come on strong in a backup role. Dressman threw for 182 yards and three TDs against Conner. He also rushed 13 times for 98 yards.
Sam Dressman, Ben's brother, thew a TD pass on a trick play. Ben Darlington and Luke Bir combined to rush for 134 yards, and each scored.
CovCath Coach Dave Wirth thought his team could move the ball against Conner, but he wasn't sure if his defense could contain Barker.
"They've got a bunch of guys who can make plays, and looking at them on film scared me to death," he said. "Drew must've had a little bit of an off day. They're much better offensively than they showed today."
Matty Way, a senior defensive back for CovCath whose first cousin Andrew scored Conner's only TD, said the Colonels "love coming out and competing with (Barker) and taking it to him.
"If we can stop him, a kid of that caliber, we can say we're a great defense."
Barker hopes the No. 22 Cougars bounce back from this loss to CovCath and get on a roll in the 5A playoffs just like two years ago.
"My sophomore year they beat us 42-14, and we ended up making a deep run. We lost to Anderson County (in the quarterfinals) by one point, and they made it to the finals."
As for the chatter among fans that he will be in the mix to start at UK next season, Barker said, "That's pretty cool. I just know they're going to play whoever's the best quarterback. I'm going down there, work hard and not talk about it. Just work.
"Right now it's obvious nothing's settled because they keep throwing guys in there. I guess there'll be a (quarterback) competition next year just like this year. I just want an opportunity."
Barker wasn't in a good mood after Saturday's loss to CovCath. The game was over at 3 p.m., leaving plenty of time to get to Lexington for UK's game against Alabama State. But he said he wasn't sure he'd make the trip.
"I haven't decided. But I probably won't after what just happened here."