By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — The moment the fight song ended in the east end zone after the Buccaneers dispatched Arcanum 41-21 for the second straight win, Covington coach Tyler Cates was already looking ahead to a huge week-six showdown with Cross County Conference rival Miami East.
And with good reason.
Miami East is on a roll through the first five games, sitting at 4-1 overall and unbeaten in the CCC after back-to-back huge wins over Fort Loramie and Bethel.
“This is a big week for us,” said Cates without hesitation in his voice. “East is tough, very well coached and we’ll find out what we are made of against those guys. This is a big one.”
People will look at the results of games and see Miami East beat Fort Loramie a week after Fort Loramie beat Covington.
But Miami East will not see the same Covington team Fort Loramie saw in week three. The Vikings will see a team that, yes, is still very young, but much more improved than the team that took the field two weeks ago against Fort Loramie.
“Absolutely,” Cates said. “We are getting better every day. Do we still have a long way to go to be the team we think we can be? Yes. But we are improving with each and every day.”
And the improvement showed once again on Friday against Arcanum, although the Trojans came into the contest with just one win.
Arcanum won the coin toss and elected to defer to start the game. Covington then took the opening possession the length of the field for a score – a three-yard run by sophomore quarterback Cade Schmelzer.
It was a drive that set the tone – a tone of physical football up front mixed in with some big plays through the passing game.
“I thought our line did a good job of staying on their blocks early (in the game),” Cates said. “We did have some mental lapses though.”
Still, after forcing Arcanum to punt on its next possession, freshman Trenton Alexander gave the Buccaneers excellent field position at the Covington 30. Two plays later Cade Schmelzer connected with senior slot receiver Tyler Freeman on a pretty 66-yard strike to make the score 14-0 after Ethan Herron powered his way over for the two-point conversion.
“I thought we had a great start,” Cates said. “But we have to find some consistency. That’s what’s killing us right now – a lack of consistency.”
The lack of consistency by Covington put Arcanum right back into the game a Daniel Coates broke free on a 65-yard punt return for a score to cut the deficit to 14-6 after one and then Coates scored on a 12-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion to tie the score at 14-14 early in the second quarter.
“Our special teams killed us on the punt return,” explained Cates. “We had all of the momentum and then missed a bunch of tackles on a punt return to allow them to gain some momentum. Then, on defense, we let them drive down and score again. That’s a lack of consistency on our part.”
Fortunately Covington had a game-breaking weapon of its own in senior Ethan Herron, who took the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for the score and a 21-14 Buccaneer lead.
“Yes, that was a game changer,” said Cates of the kickoff return. “That immediately swung the momentum in our favor.”
That it did as Covington closed out the first half with two more scores – one a 62-yard scoring strike from Schmelzer to senior Bradley Wiggins and a one-yard run by senior Joey Schmelzer.
This pushed the Buccaneer lead to 34-14 at the break.
“It was nice to see Wiggy (Bradley Wiggins) make a big play,” Cates said. “He’s back from an injury that forced him to miss the first three games and he’s finally getting healthy. He’s another weapon we need going forward.”
With the game pretty much well in hand to start the second half, the Buccaneers took the air out of the ball in an attempt to shorten the game and prevent any unneeded injuries.
This made for a very quick third quarter as the game remained 34-14 in favor of Covington.
Covington then mixed in junior varsity kids in the fourth quarter, but were still able to punch in another touchdown on a four-yard run by sophomore Gage Kerrigan to push the lead to 41-14.
Arcanum closed out the scoring against the Covington junior varsity squad in the waning moments to make the final score 41-21.
“That’s a lot of points to give up, regardless of the circumstances,” said Cates of the 21 points Arcanum scored against his team. “We still have a lot of work to do in all phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams.”
And Covington has very little time to address its deficiencies as a trip to Miami East awaits next Friday.