By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — The Covington Buccaneers couldn’t have asked for a better schedule in their three scrimmages to prepare for the upcoming season when you consider tests against the likes of Milton-Union, Eaton and then Anna on Friday in the “Jamboree”.
Scrimmages against three traditionally strong programs give the Buccaneer coaching staff data on areas of strengths and weaknesses and an opportunity to refine their overall game before the season opener – which is a tough one against traditional MAC power St. Henry.
And from what Covington coach Tyler Cates saw on Friday in basically two quarters of varsity football against Anna, his team has many more strengths than weaknesses – primarily on defense.
“I’m very proud of our defensive effort,” said Cates. “But, at the same time, we know we still have some things to fix. Our defense is flying to the football, which is one of the things we have stressed all off-season. Still, we can obviously get much, much better.”
For much of the first two quarters with the starting units on the field the Buccaneers were dominating on defense as it held Anna’s offense in check.
But a big play put Anna in position to score late in the half and the Rockets were able to punch it in from the three with two seconds left.
“Their receiver made a nice play on the ball, but we have to make that play,” Cates said. “We got pressure on their quarterback and he threw up a prayer and their receiver was able to come down with it (the ball). Positioning is what we need to work on there.”
The Anna score before the break wasn’t all on the defense as the offense is the one who put the defense in a bind thanks to an untimely penalty.
At the time, Covington had already taken a 13-0 lead thanks to 15-yard scoring strike from Cade Schmelzer to Andrew Cates and then a 17-yard run by Gage Kerrigan.
The Buccaneers then had the ball with 2:15 left in the half and Duncan Cooper ran 12 yards for what appeared to be a first down.
But a holding penalty moved the ball back, forcing Covington to throw instead of grinding it out on the ground to control the clock.
Anna’s defense was able to hold and took over the ball with 1:15 left – just enough time to score before the break.
“We were sloppy on some things and we need to address those details,” Cates emphasized. “We’re not on the same page at times and we can’t have that next week (against St. Henry). There are a lot of things to work on.”
Still, Covington’s starters unofficially out gained Anna 358 to 136 in total yards and held a 13-7 advantage on the scoreboard before the junior varsity took the field.
More importantly, the Buccaneers racked up 220 yards on the ground and surrendered just one sack.
“Our offensive line, it was much improved tonight,” praised Cates. “Anna is big up front and we did well against that size. I’m very pleased with our offensive line.”
When the offensive line is gelling like it did Friday, the Buccaneers have many weapons to give opposing teams fits.
And the likes of quarterback Cade Schmelzer, receivers Andrew Cates and Parker Dysinger, along with a stable of backs in Gage Kerrigan, Duncan Cooper, Alex Shaffer and Brayden Wiggins came through with big plays on a consistent basis.
“Our quarterback and backs played very well,” Cates continued in his praise. “Cade (Schmelzer) made some nice reads and our receivers did a nice job of getting separation. Our backs ran hard and the line gave them holes to run through.”
Overall it was a solid night for Covington in its final scrimmage for the upcoming season – a night where the Buccs won 25-7 on the scoreboard with combined varsity and reserves.
And it all comes down to Cates’ vision of getting this team back to playing football the way Covington is known for.
“I know these are scrimmages and we haven’t accomplished anything yet, but we are back to playing hard-nosed football like Covington is known for,” Cates said. “Yes, we were sloppy on some things and a lot of that can be corrected, but what I’m looking for now is how hard the kids are playing. I think our kids are playing pretty dang hard.”
Which is the most positive sign heading into the season opener next Friday against St. Henry.