SEPTEMBER 15, 2017 – LEWISBURG
The Covington Buccaneers opened the 2017 season with three straight games against playoff teams from a year ago (St. Henry, Minster and Fort Loramie) and were handed defeats in all three outings.
But through it all, Covington coach Tyler Cates never lost faith in his young football team consisting of 36 freshman and sophomores out of 49 kids on the roster.
“I know we are a good football team,” said Cates after his team suffered a third straight loss to start the season last week against Fort Loramie. “We have a lot of talent, but right now we aren’t playing the way we are capable of. When we get it going, we’ll be tough to beat.”
And Cates’ faith in his young team paid dividends on Friday at Tri-County North as the Buccaneers gutted out a 20-7 win in a tough environment, despite making mental mistakes throughout the contest.
“It wasn’t pretty, but the kids found a way,” Cates said of his team’s first win of the season. “It’s great to get that first win – get that monkey off our backs.”
And Covington went back to basics by focusing on controlling the line of scrimmage against a much bigger Panther football team.
The result was 231 rushing yards accumulated for the Buccaneers and just 60 yards on the ground for the Panthers.
In all, Covington ran the ball 39 times and threw the ball a season-low 8 times.
“I felt we dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football,” said Cates. “Our offensive line played awesome tonight. I’m so proud of our kids because they took the coaching they received and executed against a front that was much bigger than them.”
Covington opened up the scoring with a time consuming drive that consisted of nothing but running the ball through the heart of the Tri-County North defense.
Sophomore quarterback Cade Schmelzer capped the effort with a one-yard run to give the Buccs a 7-0 lead after Ethan Herron made true on the point-after attempt.
“That first drive was huge for our confidence,” explained Cates. “We were able to run the football and we ran it really well. We didn’t have to pass.”
The remainder of the first half was rather ugly as Covington had a golden opportunity to extend its lead by taking over the ball on a fumble at midfield, but suddenly penalties and missed assignments forced a turnover on downs with just under 2:00 left in the half.
Tri-County North was able to capitalize on the Buccaneer mistakes as it Brian Stinson connected with fullback Josh Heindl on a 39-yard scoring strike down the Covington sideline to tie the score at 7-7 at the break.
“Outside of our scoring drive, we didn’t play very well offensively at all in the first half,” Cates commented. “But I liked the way our kids responded in the second half. We came out and took it to them. We played Covington football.”
That the Buccaneers did as they took the opening possession of the second half the length of the field to push its lead to 13-7 on another one-yard run by Cade Schmelzer.
And Covington did it by keeping the ball on the ground throughout the entire possession.
“We have so many weapons that sometimes you get tempted to put the ball in the air in order to get it into the hands of your playmakers,” explained Cates. “But when you can run the ball like that, there’s no need to throw the ball. We decided we were going to put it on the ground to start the second half and see how we’d do and the kids responded to the challenge very well.”
With Covington controlling the line of scrimmage, Tri-County North elected to forgo its traditional ground game for an aerial attack and it backfired as Buccaneer sophomore Jesse Fisher gave the Panther quarterback fits throughout the remainder of the game.
“Jesse Fisher is going to be a beast,” praised Cates of his sophomore defensive lineman. “He played a great game tonight. Actually, we had a lot of sophomores step up big time tonight – Brayden Wiggins, Gage Kerrigan, Cade Schmelzer, to name a few.”
Gage Kerrigan made the play of the game to seal the win as he broke six tackles on his way to a 25-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter.
“That was an amazing run by Gage,” Cates said. “When he wants too, he can dominate. He’s built like a fire hydrant, low and compact. If we can get him to believe in himself he’s going to be something special.”
The Covington defense closed the show after Kerrigan’s touchdown run and actually gave the ball back to the offense on the North side of the field with just under 2:00 to go in the game.
But there was no need for the Buccaneers to score as they ate out the clock for the 20-7 win.
“This is a big win for us,” Cates summarized. “We’ll enjoy this one and come back tomorrow and prepare for another one. We have a lot of football ahead of us.”
Next up for Covington is a home game against Arcanum next Friday as the Buccs celebrate homecoming.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
BUCCS – 0 – 7 – 6 – 7 = 20
PANTHERS – 0 – 7 – 0 – 0 = 7
2nd -COV: Cade Schmelzer 1-yd run (Ethan Herron Kick)
2nd – TCN : Josh Heindl 39-yd pass from Brian Stinson (Kick Good)
3rd – COV: Cade Schmelzer 1-yd run (Kick Failed)
4th – COV: Gage Kerrigan 25-yd run (Ethan Herron Kick)