By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — It was a special night in so many ways for the Covington football team as they hosted Twin Valley South on Friday looking for the program’s 500th win on of all nights – Senior Night.
And the Buccaneers did just that with a dominating 56-13 win over the Panthers in a contest that was in all intensive purposes over before halftime.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Covington coach Tyler Cates of the 500th win in school history. “To get it on Senior Night, that’s special.”
Typically seniors always remember their last game on the home field, but reaching an historic milestone makes it that much more memorable.
“These seniors will always remember their last game on Smith Field,” continued Cates. “I remember my Senior Night against Anna like it was yesterday and I know this group of seniors will remember their Senior Night forever – especially considering it came on the school’s five-hundredth win. That’s really cool.”
And Cates has a way of making things even more special for his kids as he did all he could to give his two senior linemen opportunities to score touchdowns.
“Having Bowen (Swank) and Bryce (Keiser) score touchdowns was awesome,” he said. “I always try to give my linemen a chance to score at some point in the season and it was great to see those two score touchdowns on Senior Night.”
Bowen Swank’s opportunity came on the Buccs’ opening possession as he capped a 70-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge up the gut.
“We gave Bowen a hard time because it took him three carries to score,” chuckled Cates. “But in his defense, his first carry was from the five.”
Keiser’s opportunity to score nearly didn’t happen as it came in Covington’s final scoring opportunity in the fourth quarter.
But thanks to an unselfish play by senior halfback Ethan Herron, Kaiser was able to tote the rock the final three yards for Covington’s final score of the night.
“Ethan ran out of bounds on purpose so we could give Bryce an opportunity to score a touchdown,” explained Cates. “What a very unselfish move by Ethan. That’s what makes Covington kids awesome to coach. These kids care so much about their teammates and are very unselfish.”
In between the two scores by the Buccaneer senior linemen, Covington had its way with the visiting Panthers.
Zach Parrett followed Bowen’s Swank’s scoring run with a 29-yard touchdown catch from Cade Schmelzer to put the Buccs up 14-0.
After the Panthers shocked Covington with a 90-yard kickoff return for a score by Cade Cottingim, sophomore fullback Gage Kerrigan responded with a five-yard scoring run to push the Buccaneer lead to 21-6.
“The special teams breakdown on the kick return bothered me,” Cates said. “That and all of the penalties we had tonight. Those are two areas where we need to improve.”
In all, Covington had 9 penalties for 95 yards – a trend that has lasted throughout the entire season.
“We lost three games because of penalties and that’s something we need to correct before next season,” continued Cates.
Covington was able to overcome its penalties on this night as it extended its lead to 35-6 at the break on a two-yard scoring plunge by Herron an a two-yard pass from Cade Schmelzer to senior Bradley Wiggins.
“I’d like to credit our offensive line for the way they played tonight,” praised Cates. “They did a great job in pass protection and did a nice job of driving people off the ball in our running game. Our line played well.”
Which led to more scoring in the third quarter as Schmelzer hit Zach Parrett from 17 yards out for a score – the second touchdown hookup for the duo.
“Cade keeps getting better and better,” complimented Cates of his sophomore quarterback. “It always helps when you have targets like Zach (Parrett), Bradley (Wiggins), Ty (Freeman) and the rest of the skill kids to throw it too.”
Two plays after Parrett’s second receiving touchdown, the senior wideout and defensive back was the benefactor of a gift from fellow senior Ethan Herron. Herron, a safety, intercepted a Panther pass and lateraled to Parrett, who raced 33 yards for the score and a 49-6 Covington lead midway through the third.
Keiser’s touchdown pushed the advantage to 56-6 early in the fourth and from there the Buccs rotated younger players in and out of the contest.
Twin Valley South was able to capitalize with a scoring drive that was capped by a one-yard run by Ryan Bassler to make the final score 56-13.
In all Covington was very balanced on offense as it tallied 257 yards passing and 174 yards on the ground for a total of 431 yards of offense.
“That’s what we try to do – be balanced,” Cates explained. “When you can be balanced on offense, it puts the defense in a bind.”
Defensively, Covington held the Panthers to just 113 yards of total offense despite playing many younger kids throughout the second half.
“I’m so proud of the way our kids got after it on defense,” said Cates. “I wish we could have some of our games back where we lost because our younger kids have improved so much with every game. That’s encouraging for the future.”
The future is a year away, but Covington’s focus is the present as the Buccaneers captured a milestone win.
“We got our 500th win as a program on our home field and every kids saw the field,” said Cates. “This was a great night to be a Bucc.”
Covington closes out its season next Friday at National Trail.