|Andrew Cates picks up a critical first down late in the fourth quarter.
|Alex Shaffer finds room on the outside for a long gain in the first half.
By Rob Kiser, Piqua Daily Call
NOVEMBER 8, 2019 - COVINGTON
It didn’t come easy. But, in the end, the Covington defense made enough big plays and the offense delivered with two big drives in the fourth quarter as the Buccs held on for a 33-27 win over Worthington Christian in a D-VI opening round playoff game at Smith Field.
Covington advances to play undefeated Chillicothe Southeastern at a site to be announced Sunday at 7 p.m. on November 15. Southeastern defeated Dayton Christian 40-3 Friday night.
“Thank goodness we were able to run the ball at the end,” Covington coach Ty Cates said. “If you couldn’t see, I was going ball control in the fourth quarter. I was just looking to keep the ball out of the hands of number one (Lucas Hartings) and number six (DJ Moore) is heck of a receiver.”
It didn’t look like it was going to be that exciting in the second half after Covington opened a 27-7 halftime lead, but the momentum swung in the third quarter thanks to the arm of Lucas Hartings.
As a result, the Warriors had the ball trailing just 27-21 early in the fourth quarter.
“The momentum swung big time,” Cates said.
With Covington leading 27-21 early in the fourth quarter, Worthington Christian started a drive at its own 22 early in the fourth quarter.
On third and one, Hartings was stuffed on a quarterback sneak for no gain.
The Warriors elected to go for it on fourth down, but running back Braden Anderson was stuffed in the Worthington Christian backfield by Covington linebacker Brayden Wiggins for no gain - giving the Buccs a short field.
“Our defense has been making big plays like that all season,” Cates said.
Trent Alexander started the drive with a 12-yard run, the first of seven straight running plays.
On fourth-and-one from the 10-yard line, quarterback Cade Schmelzer pushed the ball to the eight. Two plays later, he ran it in from four yards out. After the pass failed on the PAT, Covington led 33-21 with 5:58 remaining.
“There is no quit in these kids,” Cates said. “A lot of them have been starting since they were sophomores and they are pretty resilient.”
The Warriors weren’t done yet.
They put together a 72-yard scoring drive in five plays.
Hartings converted a fourth-and-seven with a 17-yard pass to Anderson, then threw for 13 yards to Moore, before a 43-yard TD pass to Moore. The PAT kick was wide and Covington led 33-27 with 3:43 remaining.
Then, Covington did exactly what they needed to do by covering the short kick and never let Worthington Christian touch the ball again.
The Buccs ran eight straight plays to run out the clock and seal the victory.
“I am really proud of these kids,” Cates said. “That is a really good football team we beat tonight.”
Covington got off to a fast start, thanks to the defense and special teams.
On the second play of the game, Kleyton Maschino stepped in front of the a Hartings pass, giving Covington the ball at the Warriors 31.
“In that formation, that was his (Kleyton Maschino’s) assignment,” Cates said.
On second-and-eight from the nine-yard line, Schmelzer hooked up with Cates for the first score of the game and Maschino’s kick made it 7-0 with 9:10 remaining in the first quarter.
The Covington defense again stopped Worthington Christian on fourth-and-five from its own 39. Hartings elected to run after it looked like Duncan Cooper was in position to block the punt. Trentin Alexander forced him out of bounds well short of the first down and Covington took over at the Worthington Christian 38.
The Buccs then put a 10-play drive together.
On fourth-and-three from the Warriors 21, Brayden Wiggins ran six yards to extend the drive. Three plays later, Schmelzer ran it in from three yards out. The PAT kick failed and Covington led 13-0.
After another Worthington Christian three-and-out, a batted pass by Schmelzer was intercepted by Caleb Harper on the first play of the second quarter.
Hartings hooked up with Moore on a 42-yard pass to the one-yard line and called his own number for the touchdown.
Grant Woodfin’s PAT kick made it 13-7 with 10:59 remaining in the half.
But, Covington would counter with two scores before half to seemingly take control of the game.
A 39-yard pass from Schmelzer to Maschino set up a one-yard TD run by Cooper. The PAT kick again was wide, leaving the score at 19-7.
Covington then put together an 83-yard drive on its next possession.
Alex Shaffer had a 44-yard run that led to a two-yard TD run by Alexander with 15.4 seconds remaining in the half.
Schmelzer passed to Kadin Presser for the PAT to make it 27-7 at the break.
On the Warriors first possession of the third quarter, Hartings threw a 53-yard TD Pass to Jaiden Reynolds and Woodfin’s kick made it 27-14.
Worthington Christian then recovered an onside kick at the Covington 40.
A Covington person foul on fourth down extended the drive and Hartings ran for eight yards on fourth-and seven. He eventually run it in from one-yard out and Woodfin’s PAT kick made it 27-21 with 3:24 remaining in the third quarter.
”I felt like we were losing after they got the onside kick,” Cates said with a laugh.
But, when all was said and done, a determined Covington team finished off the win in the fourth quarter.
Covington ground out 274 yards on the ground, led by Wiggins. He rushed for 101 yards on 17 carries.
Hartings had 260 yards passing, completing 13 of 26 passes with one interception.
Moore had four catches for 123 yards and Reynolds had three catches for 74 yards.
Covington racked up 353 yards of total offense to 317 for Worthington Christian.
The win improves Covington's record to 9-2 and gives the Buccaneers another week to prepare for an opponent, which is life in post-season football.