By Ben Robinson
BRANDT — The Covington Buccaneers had just returned after a long bus ride from Bethel High School and there wasn’t many smiles on the faces of players or coaches even after a convincing 30-8 win.
That’s because the expectations in performance are much higher than what Covington showed on Friday against a gritty and well coached Bethel team.
“A ton of mistakes,” said Covington coach Dave Miller of his assessment of his team’s performance. “We better get better in a hurry because we have a good football team coming to our place next week.”
The mistakes Miller was referring too were costly penalties at inopportune times – penalties that killed potential scoring drives and other penalties that gave Bethel opportunities to put points on the board.
In all, Covington committed six penalties, but all came in crucial situations.
“We held them to a three-and-out to start the game and had a nice drive of our own going, but had a stupid penalty that killed the drive,” Miller said. “Those are the types of things we can’t have.”
Still, Covington was able to score on two of its three first half possessions to take a 14-0 lead with just under 3:00 left in the half – both coming on short runs by junior fullback Deron White.
But Bethel responded with an impressive drive of its own by taking advantage of Covington miscues along the way. The result was a 19-yard score of a halfback pass from Josh Wells to Ian Anderson.
Then, Covington jumped off sides twice on the point-after attempt, eventually moving the ball inside the one. This allowed Bethel to roll the dice by going for the two-point conversion, which was successful on a run by sophomore quarterback Jacob Evans.
“We had the two drives in the first half where we controlled the clock for a 14-0 lead and I’m thinking we are in good shape heading into the half up 14-0 because we got the ball to start the second half,” Miller explained. “But we let them march right down the field and score. That makes it a different ball game.”
Whatever was said at the break proved huge for Covington because it was a different Buccaneer team on the field in the second half.
“To the kid’s credit, they stuck together and never panicked,” said Miller of his team’s second half response. “They just responded.”
Covington was forced to punt on its opening drive of the second half, but punter Nathan Blei placed the ball perfectly inside the four. Two plays later the Buccaneer defense stuffed a Bethel runner in the end zone for a safety and a 16-8 lead.
Frustration immediately set in for Bethel as it was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the safety, forcing the Bees to execute the free kick from deep in their own territory.
After a nice return by Covington, the Buccaneers were back in business with a short field. Senior halfback Jared Williams ultimately converted the short drive into a 23-8 lead with an 11-yard scoring jaunt.
“That punt by Blei was huge,” Miller said.
Bethel followed by moving the ball deep into Covington territory. But the Buccaneer defense was up to the task as it held on fourth down inside the ten.
Two plays later Jared Williams broke loose for 79 yards down to the Bethel 14 and then senior scatback Shane Straw finished the four-play, 96-yard drive with a 14-yard scoring run.
“I like the way the kids responded in the second half,” Miller said. “Still, we need to clean some things up.”
Covington racked up 357 yards of offense, all coming on the ground, and converted for 18 first downs.
Bethel had a solid night with its ground game, pounding out 160 yards on the ground and 199 total yards against a typically stingy Buccaneer defense.
The Buccaneers put the ball on the ground once, but managed to recover their own miscue, while Bethel fumbled four times and lost two of them.
The win pushes Covington’s record to 3-1 on the season and 3-0 in the CCC as it prepares to host Troy Christian next week.