|Alex Shaffer runs the ball for Covington.
|Cade Schmelzer lets loose a pass during the regional final against Mechanicsburg.
By Rob Kiser, Piqua Daily Call
NOVEMBER 22, 2019 - PIQUA
The final score was not what the Covington football team had hoped for in a 42-26 loss to Mechanicsburg in the Division VI, Region 24 championship game at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field.
Mechanicsburg, 11-2, advances to play Anna in the state semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Wapakoneta. Covington closes the season at 10-3.
But, two plays in the fourth quarter reflected what the Covington football team and coach Ty Cates are all about.
With Covington trailing 42-14 early in the fourth quarter, Trentin Alexander picked up a kickoff near the 25-yard line.
Alexander appeared to be stopped several times, before breaking free from a scrum near the 40-yard line and going all the way to the Mechanicsburg two-yard line before he was tackled.
He ran the ball in on the next play to get the Buccaneers within 42-20.
Then, with Covington trailing 42-20 in the final two minutes, Kleyton Maschino hauled in a pass from Cade Schmelzer near the Mechanicsburg 40, broke several tackles as he cut all the way across the field and turned it into an 83-yard touchdown pass to make the final margin 42-26.
“That just exemplifies what this team is about,” Cates said. “There is no quit in these guys. It would have been easy just to quit in that situation. A lot of teams would have. These guys have overcome so much adversity. I am so proud of these guys.”
And it ended an amazing three-year run for seniors Stephen Sporek, Alex Shaffer, Austin Flick, Dalton Weer, Bryce Weer, Josh Latimer, Andrew Cates, Cade Schmelzer, Kadin Presser, Brayden Wiggins, Kleyton Maschino, Seth Iddings, Teague Deaton, Jesse Fisher, Nate Alexander and Dylan Staudt.
After losing five of their first seven games as sophomores, they finished their careers by winning 21 of their final 28 games and making two straight playoff appearances.
“It has been an amazing ride,” Cates said. “I have been here four years, so this is the first group I have coach for four years. I am really going to miss getting to coach these guys every day in practice.”
But, the Buccs could never get the Mechanicsburg offense slowed down Friday night.
Mechanicsburg scored on its first four possessions in the first half to take a 28-14 lead at the break, then added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
“We missed too many tackles,” Cates said. “And we had some mental mistakes where guys lined up wrong. But, give Mechanicsburg credit. That is a really good football team.”
The Indians set the tone with a 13-play drive after the opening kickoff.
Chase Propst had an 11-yard TD run and Jake Hurst ran for the two-point conversion.
Covington answered with a 25-yard TD pass from Schmelzer to Maschino, when Maschino caught the ball along the right sideline, did a 360 to elude two tacklers and raced all the way to the end zone. The PAT kick was blocked, leaving the scored at 8-6.
Jake Hurst added a one-yard TD run and Aaron Conley hooked up with a 31-yard TD pass to Keith Bebout on fourth-and-10. Both PATs failed, making the lead 20-6.
It looked like Covington was right back in the game, going 70 yards in four plays to get within 20-14 with 2:14 remaining in the first half.
Duncan Cooper caught a 46-yard pass from Schmelzer on the drive and finished it with a four-yard TD run and Presser caught the PAT pass from Schmelzer.
With Covington receiving the second half kickoff, it looked like the Buccs had the momentum.
But, on the first play after kickoff, Conley threw a 63-yard TD pass to Jake Hurst and Propst ran for the two-point PAT to make it 28-14 at the break.
“That was kind of a backbreaker right there,” Cates said.
On Covington’s first drive of the third quarter, the Buccs were inside the Mechanicsburg 30 before losing a fumble.
Jake Hurst had a seven-yard TD run, with Conley running for the PAT and Logan Hurst threw an eight-yard TD pass to Jake Hurst to complete the Indians scoring and make it 42-14, before Covington’s two late scores.
Covington lost two fumbles and had a pass intercepted in the game, while Connor Sindelir intercepted a pass for the Buccs.
“We just shot ourselves in the foot too many times,” Cates said. “We had too many self-inflicted wounds.”
For Covington, Schmelzer led the rushing attack with 19 yards on eight carries and completed 13 of 22 passes for 222 yards. Maschino had a big night receiving with five catches for 152 yards.
For Mechanicsburg, Propst led the rushing attack with 81 yards on 16 carries, while Jake Hurst had 15 carries for 77 yards and three receptions for 114 yards.
Conley and Logan Hurst combined to complete nine of 14 passes for 170 yards.
Cates had to say a tearful goodbye to his seniors after the game, including his brother Andrew — who along with Wiggins, were lost for the season last week.
“This team has overcome so much adversity,” Cates said. “What a ride they took us on. They got us to a regional final, I had never been here before. I just love those guys so much.”
As was reflected in the heart and will the Buccs showed to the very end.