By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — What attracts causal fans to the game of football are the highlight reel catches, the breathtaking runs and the big-time hits. Those are the types of plays profiled on ESPN and even by local news channels in post-game highlights.
But football games are decided at the line of scrimmage – the narrow space between the tackles. The team who controls that space more often than not wins on the scoreboard.
And Friday in Covington’s season-opener against St. Henry, the Buccaneers had their hands full with a massive Redskin front in a 22-0 defeat on the home field.
The proof is in the statistics as St. Henry amassed 242 yards on the ground to just 48 for the Buccaneers and held a 332 to 98 advantage in total yards.
Covington also hurt itself by failing to protect the football. In all, the Buccaneers committed four turnovers – two via fumble and two more on untimely interceptions.
The first turnover by the Buccaneers came on a mishandled punt deep in their own territory in the first quarter. But the Buccaneer defense, thanks to a huge sack by Parker Dysinger, was able to hold the Redskins to a field goal.
Neither team was able to get much offense going in the second quarter until St. Henry moved the ball into Covington territory on a pair of nice runs by Zach Niekamp and Jared Fishbaugh. But the Buccaneers were able to turn the momentum as Parker Dysinger forced and recovered a fumble at the Buccaneer 25.
Unfortunately, a few plays later Covington shot itself in the foot with an untimely interception – giving St. Henry the ball near midfield with just over one-minute left in the half.
And the Redskins were able to take advantage of the gift on a six-yard run by Zach Niekamp with 14 seconds left on the clock. The extra point attempt was true and the Buccs went into the locker room facing a 10-0 deficit.
St. Henry received the ball to start the second half and on the second play from scrimmage Parker Dysinger made his presence felt once again. The senior standout sliced through St. Henry’s offensive front and crushed Redskin quarterback Sam Lefeld – forcing a fumble that was recovered by Gage Kerrigan.
With the ball at the Redskin 34 and a golden opportunity to cut into the deficit, Covington was turned away by an interception at the St. Henry six.
After a penalty by the Redskins moved the ball half the distance to the goal at its own three, St. Henry went on an offensive march that seemed to take the air out of the Buccaneers.
Behind the running of Zach Niekamp and quarterback Sam Lefeld, St. Henry drove to the Covington 24 using primarily the running game. This set up the only pass play of the drive, which resulted into a touchdown by Jay Knapke, who hauled in a pass from Lefeld over the top of the outstretched hands of a Buccaneer defender.
With the score and the clock in its favor, St. Henry was able to take chances on defense, which proved critical as the Redskins pushed their lead to 19-0 on a sack resulting into a safety as the third quarter came to a close.
The final score of the evening came once again after a Buccaneer turnover deep in its own territory as the Redskins capitalized on a Covington fumble with a 23-yard field goal by Ethan Thieman.
In all, St. Henry was able to convert 20 of its 22 points in the contest off of the Buccaneers’ four turnovers.
Still, there were plenty of positive signs for a Covington team looking to fulfill its potential with nine games of football left in the regular season.
First, the defense was relentless despite being put into some very adverse situations by miscues. It forced three St. Henry turnovers and managed to hold the Redskins to two field goals after turnovers in or near the red zone.
Outside of the 97-yard drive put together by St. Henry in the third quarter, the Buccaneer defense played a whale of a game.
And spearheading the charge was a monumental effort by senior Parker Dysinger, who recorded three quarterback sacks, knocked down one pass, forced two fumbles and recovered another to go along with several tackles in the backfield.
Covington (0-1) looks to build on the positives and address its miscues as it prepares for yet another huge early season contest next Friday at Minster, who is the defending state champions in Division 7.