SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 – BRANDT
Never has a team faced more adversity than this young Buccaneer football team has faced so far this season.
It started with thirteen kids who where in uniform a year ago deciding to pursue other interests outside of football and then two season-ending injuries to a pair of young and talented sophomores prior to the season. What followed were more and more injuries to key players throughout the first four weeks.
Then, this past week was as horrific as it could possibly get for Covington. First, the kids and coaches felt embarrassed by their performance in the loss to Troy Christian. Then, seniors Connor Sindelir, Ricky Stephan and Landon LaPoint were ruled out for week five and sophomore Trey Schemlzer was lost due to a farming accident.
This left Covington with just fifteen kids able to practice on Monday and barely twenty in uniform for Friday’s showdown with old CCC rival Bethel.
Yet, somehow Covington was able to respond in a big, big way with a determined and gritty 26-21 victory over the Bees for the first win of the season and the first win of Covington coach Austin Morgan’s young coaching career.
“It just feels awesome for these kids to finally see their hard work being paid off with a win,” said Covington coach Austin Morgan. “I’m so proud of them for being able to overcome the adversity they have faced.”
And what made the victory so special is Covington won the game by doing what Morgan and his staff preaches every day, “Fight”.
“You have to fight,” Morgan explained. “That’s kind of been our thing. We tell the kids, ‘When things get tough, the Buccs get tougher’’. That’s why we push and challenge them every day by making it tough in practice, so they learn to respond.”
And Covington responded in a big way after Bethel took advantage of a Buccaneer turnover to score the first points of the game on a 10-yard run by Will Reittinger with 2:12 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff freshman Izaiah Sherman broke several attempted tackles down the Bethel sideline to score on a 92-yard return to cut the deficit to 7-6 as the kick for the point-after was blocked.
It was the spark Covington needed as the Buccaneers followed with a time consuming drive on their next possession to take a 12-7 lead with a one-yard run by Sherman, his second of the game.
The defense then made a huge stop before the half as it held the Bees on fourth-and-goal to maintain the 12-7 lead at the break.
With the momentum on its side, Covington struck with a big play midway through the third quarter as senior quarterback Jensen Wagoner connected with freshman Christian Jarvis on an 80-yard scoring strike to push the advantage to 18-7 with 5:38 left in the third.
Looking to get back into the game, Bethel was able to force another Buccaneer turnover deep in Covington territory, but the Buccaneer defense was able to make a huge stop as senior Cam Kirker picked off a Reittinger pass in the end zone.
Shortly thereafter Jensen Wagoner capped an impressive Buccaneer drive with a four-yard hookup with Kirker. Wagoner then ran the ball in for the two-point conversion to push the Covington lead to 26-7 with 9:27 left.
But Bethel wasn’t about to pack it in as it scored on back-to-back possessions on a one-yard plunge by Reittinger and a 36-yard scoring strike from Reittinger to Nico Golden to cut the Buccaneer advantage to 26-21 with 4:12 left in the game.
With the threat of letting victory slip away, Covington turned the game over to its offensive line and the legs of Izaiah Sherman and Jensen Wagoner.
And the duo came together in crunch time as Sherman powered 11 yards for a first down and then Wagoner ran nine yards on a third-and-long to move the chains.
Finally, facing a fourth-and-two at the Bethel 35 with 44 seconds left in the game, Wagoner found a crease for five yards to seal the first win of the season for the Buccs.
“Last week was a rough week and a tough game where we should have competed more,” Morgan said. “We challenged them in practice and the kids said, ‘Okay, we’ll do it’, and they did.”
And the Buccaneers did it with so many younger kids stepping up in key situations.
“Incredible. I mean, really incredible,” said Morgan of the young kids who stepped up. “You know, the standard is the standard and it doesn’t matter who is in – whether you are a freshman, a sophomore, or if you’ve never played varsity. It doesn’t matter. You are held to the exact same standard as Connor Sindelir. It doesn’t matter who you are, you are held to that standard.”
And even though they were forced to stand on the sidelines, seniors Ricky Stephan and Connor Sindelir had huge impacts on the game by providing leadership.
“They had an impact, BIG TIME,” Morgan emphasized emphatically of Ricky Stephan and Connor Sindelir. “People probably heard them in the stands. Every play Connor was coaching the defense, coaching Garrett (Leistner). I don’t think he stopped talking the entire game. Ricky was encouraging the line and the defense. It was awesome.”
And what materialized was sophomore Mason Saunders and freshman Garrett Leistner making huge defensive plays in clutch situations.
Plus, the big plays turned in by freshmen Izaiah Sherman and Christian Jarvis provided a huge spark. In all, Sherman recorded his first career 100-yard rushing performance with 100 yards on 30 carries and had a 92-yard kickoff return, while Jarvis had 91 receiving yards on two receptions – one going for an 80-yard score.
“I’m incredibly proud of the younger guys who responded and the way they responded,” praised Morgan.
With the win the Buccaneers improve to 1-4 on the season and 1-1 in the TRC.
Next up is another big conference showdown against Northridge on the friendly confines of Smith Field.
“We’ll enjoy it tonight, but tomorrow it is on to the next one,” Morgan said. “We’ll come in tomorrow, break down the film and address our mistakes. We can’t be satisfied.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
BUCCS – 0 – 12 – 6 – 8 = 26
BEES – 7 – 0 – 0 – 14 = 21
BET – Will Reittinger 10-yd run (PAT Good)
COV – Izaiah Sherman 92-yd kick return (PAT Blocked)
COV – Izaiah Sherman 1-yd run (PAT Failed)
COV – Christian Jarvis 80-yd pass from Jensen Wagoner (PAT Failed)
COV – Cameron Kirker 4-yd pass from Jensen Wagoner (Jensen Wagoner run)
BET – Will Reittinger 1-yd run (PAT Good)
BET – Nico Golden 36-yd pass from Will Reittinger (PAT Good)