SIDNEY – It has been a rough couple of weeks for the Covington Buccaneers as they were forced to cancel back-to-back games against Northridge and Milton-Union as a result of limited numbers due to injuries.
Thankfully, due to the hard work of the kids, enough players were able to get medically cleared so the Buccaneers could compete on Friday against Lehman Catholic at Sidney High School.
Unfortunately the final score wasn’t in Covington’s favor as Lehman handed the Buccs a 67-6 defeat, but there were so many positives to build on for this young football team.
The first positive is the attitude and effort of the kids. Yes, Lehman was obviously much more experienced and had more depth, but Buccaneers gave maximum effort more often than not – even when things didn’t go well.
The second positive is the fact that there were some big plays turned in by the Buccs – most notably an interception by freshman Day’Lynn Garrett and an 80-yard kickoff return by senior DeAnthony Bennett. Garrett Leistner also had made some huge defensive plays in the Lehman backfield and offensively DeAnthony Bennett had some very nice runs out of the backfield.
Unfortunately the Buccaneers left some big plays on the field due to the inability to capitalize on opportunities in situations that were the result of youth and inexperience. Several times Covington had open receivers down the field, but quarterback Kian French just didn’t have enough time to put the ball where it needed to be as he was forced to throw while under pressure. Still, French managed to complete five passes on the night despite the extreme pressure applied by an aggressive Lehman defense. One of those passes was to freshman Mason Epperson, who made a spectacular one-handed catch off of the side of his helmet with a Lehman defender draped all over him.
“There were plenty of improvements tonight,” said Covington coach Austin Morgan. “The biggest improvement that probably goes unnoticed is the kids took the right first steps tonight. That first step puts the kids in the right position to execute and make plays, but what we failed to do at times is take advantage of the opportunities by finishing the play.”
The biggest play Covington let slip away was on a miscue by Lehman where the Cavaliers threw a backwards pass over a receiver’s head. Two Covington defenders were within range of scooping the ball up and running uncontested to the end zone, but they watched the ball roll out of bounds.
“That was a big mistake,” Morgan said. “That could have been a scoop and score, but our inexperience showed big time on that play. The kids probably thought it was an incomplete pass, but the whistle never blew. That’s why you play to the whistle.”
Covington started the game on defense and forced the Cavaliers to punt. Unfortunately the Buccaneers took over the ball deep in their own territory and couldn’t get enough breathing room to flip the field.
Lehman was able to score on its next possession for a 7-0 lead and followed with touchdowns on its next three possessions to take a 27-0 lead after one.
Following a big interception by Buccaneer freshman Day’Lynn Garrett, the Cavalier defense recovered a Buccaneer fumble and were able to score their next three possessions in the second quarter to claim a 47-0 lead at the break.
Lehman pushed its lead to 60-0 with a touchdown in the third quarter and again early in ether fourth quarter. DeAnthony Bennett followed with an 80-yard touchdown on a kickoff return before Lehman closed out the scoring with a touchdown pass in the waning moments.
Despite the loss and falling to 1-5 on the season, the young Buccaneers took another step forward in improvement and experience.
“We are making strides,” Morgan said. “We have to focus more on finishing plays, playing to the whistle. There were a lot of times if we finish a block, run our feet, finish a tackle – there were more plays out there we could have and should have made. It’s a process.”
The biggest positive of all was there were no injuries for Covington and the hope of playing again next week is extremely high.