By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — You can game plan all you want and call the perfect play for each situation, but football ultimately comes down to executing the basic fundamentals of the game – primarily blocking and tackling.
And that was the difference in winning and losing for the Covington Buccaneers on Friday against a Cross County Conference newcomer, the Fort Loramie Redskins.
Covington wasn’t able to block or tackle on a consistent basis and the result was a frustrating 28-21 defeat to drop the Buccaneers to a very uncharacteristic 0-3 on the season.
The numbers don’t lie. They prove this game was won and lost in the trenches.
Fort Loramie controlled the line of scrimmage to a tune of 365 yards of total offense – 260 of those coming on the ground with bruising running back Mike Hoying bulldozing his way to 227 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 41 carries.
Meanwhile, Covington could only manage 161 yards of total offense and just 60 yards on the ground – 50 of those coming from the scrambling legs of sophomore quarterback Cade Schmelzer, who accounted for all but ten yards of the Buccaneers’ offensive output as he also threw for 101 yards and a score.
The Redskins didn’t throw much – only when it needed in order to keep the Buccaneer defense honest and Austin Siegel was efficient with 121 passing yards on 7-of-8 passing.
The lone mistake by Siegel resulted into a Buccaneer touchdown as Ethan Herron stepping in front of a pass and raced 95 yards the other way for a pick-six to tie the score at 7-7 after a 20-yard scoring run by Hoying.
After the theft by Herron gave Covington some momentum, Hoying was the workhorse on the ensuing possession and capped the effort with a nine-yard scoring run to push the margin to 14-7 with just under 3:00 left in the half.
But a Covington offense that had trouble moving the ball suddenly came to life thanks to the arm and legs of Cade Schmelzer.
The sophomore signal caller picked the Redskin defense apart with pin-point passes and timely runs when the protection broke down. The end result was a pretty 14-yard touchdown strike to senior Ty Freeman in the back corner of the end zone to tie the score at 14-14 at the break.
With the momentum and the ball to start the second half, the Buccaneers were looking to tack on more points, but the drive stalled before crossing midfield.
Fort Loramie received a big return on the punt into Buccaneer territory and put together a cook eating drive to pay dirt on a one-yard run by Hoying – his third of the contest.
Neither offense could get much going until late in the fourth quarter as the two teams traded punt after punt.
The final punt by Fort Loramie pinned Covington deep into its own territory with just under 4:00 left and after a first down the Buccaneers elected to try and convert a fourth-and-five situation with just over 3:00 left on the clock.
Unfortunately a wide open Buccaneer receiver dropped a perfect pass by Schmelzer, turning the ball back over to the Redskins at the Buccaneer 30.
And Fort Loramie was able to take advantage of the short field as Carter Mescher found a crease through the left side of the Buccaneer defense for a six-yard scoring run to push the Redskin advantage to 28-14 with 2:18 left on the clock.
With a third straight defeat staring Covington in the face, the determination and character of a young Buccaneer team came to the forefront for one final push.
And it was the sophomore signal caller who put the Buccs’ hopes on his shoulders as Cade Schmelzer marched Covington to the one with a perfect back-shoulder toss to Ty Freeman. Ethan Herron plowed his way in from one yard out to cut the deficit to 28-21 with 1:10 left in the game.
Covington then elected to attempt the onside kick and was successful as Ethan Herron pulled the ball out of the scrum at midfield.
With a golden opportunity for a miraculous comeback, Covington wasn’t able to capitalize as four straight passes fell to the rain soaked Smith Field turf – including one that was dropped by a Buccaneer receiver inside the Fort Loramie ten.
On this night it wasn’t penalties, turnovers, dropped passes or youth that ultimately prevented Covington from winning.
It was the inability to block and tackle.