Covington Catholic etched itself into the record books with a 3-0 shutout of Henry Clay in the KHSAA state championship finals Saturday night at Paul Laurence Dunbar.
The Colonels became the first team from Northern Kentucky to win the boys' title behind two goals from Griffin Lamb and another from Jacob Litzler.
Catholic finished with a 12-11 advantage in shot attempts, pulling ahead in the second half after Henry Clay held an 8-3 advantage at the break.
Colonels Coach Jeremy Robertson said he was worried in the first 15 minutes as Henry Clay came out attacking and kept the defense in check.
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But Catholic stuck with the game plan and was able to find some combos that worked in their favor. And while the Colonels came away with only three shots in the first half, they were efficient with them to take a 2-0 lead.
Lamb was involved in every one of those combinations. He assisted on the Colonels' first goal, a volley from Litzler into the left side of the net just as the 15th minute began.
Eighteen minutes later, Lamb got in the goal column off a through-ball assist from Litzler that he touched in.
Lamb, a junior, got his second goal off a rebound late in the game.
Henry Clay was shut out for just the second time this season and the first since August. It was their fifth championship appearance and second with Coach Tim Bernardi at the helm.
Bernardi knew Catholic was very "pacy" and well-coached. He thought the teams were equal in talent and speed.
He said the Blue Devils had a difficult time dealing with the Colonels after they "hunkered down" and played most of their players in the backfield once they went up two goals.
Other than the Madison Central match — when Henry Clay fell behind 3-0 in the first half of the 11th Region semifinals — Bernardi couldn't remember whether the Blue Devils had allowed two goals in a half all season. They allowed just 21 goals all year.
"We thought if we could come out being down 0-2 and get an early one on them to make it 2-1, we could possibly press and see what they had," Bernardi said. "We couldn't generate. They were rock-solid in the back."
Henry Clay has used its speed to get past opponents this season. Bernardi said Catholic's discipline sending balls down the sideline and delivering crossing passes to set up shots helped neutralize any advantage in quickness the Blue Devils held.
"The first goal was a perfect example," Bernardi said. "We had three people stab at the ball and missed it. Then they got a cross off and had a textbook finish."
Henry Clay graduates 12 seniors, including two University of Kentucky commits in Aime Mabika and Collin Rose. Bernardi acknowledged the long haul they've gone through to get to this point.
"It's an emotional drain," Bernardi said. "When you work so hard and put so much into it, it's emotional. These seniors have done a lot for this program. Many of them have had siblings that play for me and I've watched them grow up.
"Our goal wasn't met but at the same time I think that they'll look back on it as a fond memory ... because it's tough to get here."
Covington Catholic 3, Henry Clay 0
KHSAA state tournament, boys' championship at Paul Laurence Dunbar
CC: Lamb 2 (33', 69'), Litzler (15').
GK—CC: Romes. HC: Gregory.
Records: Covington Catholic 24-2-2, Henry Clay 23-3-1.
All-tournament team: Adam Huff, Rowan County; Jacob O'Nan, Henderson County; Zack Combs, Perry County Central; Cameron Smith, Trinity; Jamison Edwards, Fern Creek; Jacob Teasley, Fern Creek; Jeffrey Spader, Bowling Green; David Mason, Bowling Green; Collin Rose, Henry Clay; Aime Mabika, Henry Clay; Chris Hunt, Henry Clay; Ben Darpel, Covington Catholic; Sam Romes, Covington Catholic.
MVP: Bryce Day, Covington Catholic.