By Ben Robinson
ST. HENRY — The growing pains for the Covington Buccaneers continued in the season opener at St. Henry on Friday as the Redskins took advantage of four turnovers to hand the Buccs a 37-7 defeat.
“The turnovers, they were able to turn them into points and that’s what good teams do,” said Covington coach Tyler Cates in his assessment of the game. “We didn’t do a very good job of taking care of the football and against a team like St. Henry, they’ll make you pay.”
Making Covington pay for miscues is what St. Henry did as it converted all four Buccaneer turnovers into points.
And all four turnovers came on interceptions by Redskin safety Sam Lefeld, who took his final theft to the house from 24 yards out in the fourth quarter for the final points of the game.
“That’s a very good defense who flies to the football,” praised Cates of St. Henry. “We knew that from scouting them.”
And St. Henry’s defense made Covington’s multidimensional offense very one dimensional by game’s end. That’s because the Buccaneers just couldn’t find any success in the ground game – totaling negative-14 yards on the ground.
“We weren’t able to run the football and that made us one dimensional,” Cates explained. “Defensively, we played pretty well at times, but when you can’t run the football it puts your defense in a tough spot.”
Still, Covington was right where it wanted to be at the end of the first half – within striking distance only down14-7.
St. Henry struck first with a well executed drive capped by a one-yard run by Ryan Luttmer and then pushed the lead to 14-0 on a 28-yard scoring strike from Daylon Lange to Tyler Schlarman early in the second quarter.
But Covington responded with a well executed drive of its own and finished the drive with a 21-yard scoring strike from Cade Schmelzer to Zach Parrett to cut the deficit to 14-7.
The Buccaneer defense then made a critical stop to give the offense the ball back with time for a potential game-tying scoring drive before the break.
But after moving the ball into St. Henry territory, Redskins safety Sam Lefeld made a huge play with a leaping interception to prevent the Buccs from doing further damage.
“I thought we played pretty well in the first half,” said Cates. “They (St. Henry) made some big plays and most of the half was played on our side of the field, but we responded well to sudden change. I liked where we were at the half because I felt we had some momentum and confidence.”
Covington received the opening kickoff of the second half, but wasn’t able to take advantage of a nice return to midfield by Ethan Herron and was forced to punt after three offensive plays netted just six yards.
St. Henry was able to the reclaim the momentum with a good-ole-fashion ground-and-pound drive that was capped by a 13-yard run by Luttmer to push the Redskin lead to 21-7.
After a second interception by Lefeld on the ensuing Buccaneer possession, the Covington defense followed with what appeared to be a momentum changing stop of its own as a 33-yard field goal attempt by St. Henry was blocked by the Buccaneers.
Unfortunately for Covington, a Redskin lineman was flagged for a false start, which moved St. Henry back five yards and resulted in another attempt. This time Ryan Luttmer’s kick was right down the middle with plenty of leg to spare to push the St. Henry advantage to 24-7 at the end of three quarters of play.
And suddenly the wheels fell off for the young Buccaneers as Luttmer broke free on a 42-yard scoring run after yet a third Sam Lefeld theft. A kickoff and two plays later, Lefeld picked off a fourth Buccaneer pass and scored from 24 yards away to blow the game open.
“I know what the score reads, but this game was closer than the score,” Cates said. “There’s no moral victories though and it was obvious who the better team was tonight. That’s a good football team and credit goes to them for the way they played. We made too many mistakes and like I said, they (St. Henry) were able to capitalize.”
Regardless of the season-opening defeat, Cates still believes in the 49 Buccaneer players on his roster.
“I still feel we’re a good football team,” he said. “We’ll review the film, address where we need to improve and we’ll come away stronger from this experience. There’s a lot of football to be played and we’ll continue to get better.”
The Buccaneers (0-1) will host Minster (1-0) next Friday in the home opener.