AUGUST 29, 2014 – COVINGTON
For the first time since October 16, 2009 in week eight of the season, the Covington Buccaneers suffered a regular season loss – falling to St. Henry 34-7 on Friday to open the 2014 season and ending a 43-game regular season winning streak.
The defeat to the Redskins was eerily similar to that fateful night five years ago when a talented Ansonia team took advantage of several Buccaneer turnovers to hand a banged up Covington team an embarrassing 35-7 defeat on Smith Field.
As painful as this loss is for Covington, it does not define a season – much like in 2009 when Covington came back three weeks later and dominated that same Ansonia team 28-7 in the state playoffs.
“I know the kids are hurting, but we’ll be fine,” said Covington coach Dave Miller after addressing his team in the locker room. “We have great kids, kids who work extremely hard, and I know we’ll bounce back. This is a great group of kids.”
Miller has every reason to be optimistic for the fact that his young team never once failed to give maximum effort throughout the game and managed to find success under adverse conditions.
“The way we battled in the second half is what we will build on,” Miller said. “They scored there early in the third quarter and we didn’t blink. We came back and put together a nice drive and punched it in.”
Where Covington killed itself was in the opening quarter with two fumbles that led to a quick 20-0 lead for St. Henry.
Then Covington fumbled again late in the half and St. Henry took advantage with another score to go up 27-0 at the break.
“The first quarter was about as bad as it could get,” Miller said. “We didn’t protect the football and to their credit, they took advantage. The mistakes in the first quarter really hurt us.”
What also hurt Covington was missed tackles, primarily on St. Henry’s junior halfback Jesse Neikamp, who rushed for 190 yards on 10 carries and scored four times.
“The Neikamp kid is a special player,” Miller praised. “We saw him last year and knew he was a good one. I also talked to the Versailles coach and he confirmed that he was the real deal. He’s shifty and deceptively fast. If you don’t wrap him up, he’ll make you look bad.”
On the surface, the game did look bad for Covington considering the final score and the rushing totals Neikamp put up.
But when you look deeper into Miller’s philosophy in game planning and game management, there is a reason for the inflated numbers – primarily Covington’s inability to hold onto the football in the first half.
Three fumbles and a failed fourth-and-one killed first half drives for Covington – a team that prides itself on moving the chains and controlling the clock. These miscues gave a high-powered St. Henry offense a short field to work with on each of its three scoring drives in the first half.
Considering St. Henry accumulated just 67 more yards than Covington on offense (276 to 209), the turnovers were too much for a young Buccaneer team to overcome against a quality team like St. Henry.
“We have all of the respect in the world for that program,” said Miller of St. Henry. “Coach Luthman and his staff do a great job and that’s obvious when you look at how much more comfortable their kids are running their system compared to last year. That’s a quality program and the reason why we wanted them on our schedule. We want to play the best and I feel our program is ready for the best.”
And even in defeat, Miller feels this will only help his team improve.
“Absolutely,” Miller agreed. “We faced some adversity this week and had to come in here against a really good team and try to overcome it. Sometimes things don’t go your way, but you learn from it and move on. I trust these kids and know they’ll do what it takes to come back stronger tomorrow and throughout the week.”
At the end of the day, it’s a loss on Covington’s record – but a learning experience that will help the Buccaneers get to where they want to be.
“I still believe this can be a very good football team,” Miller said of his Buccaneers. “We have to get healthy and correct some of our mistakes and we’ll be fine.”
Next week Covington (0-1) hosts Arcanum (1-0) to open Cross County Conference play.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
BUCCS – 0 – 0 – 0 – 7 = 7
REDSKINS – 20 – 7 – 7 – 0 = 34