By Ben Robinson
WEST ALEXANDRIA — A football season is a marathon – not a sprint, which the Covington Buccaneers are realizing after nine weeks where post-season hopes are alive and well after being presumed left for dead from starting the 2018 campaign with three straight losses.
Now, after a sixth straight win on Friday by thrashing Twin Valley South by the score of 50-0 on a cold, wet night – Covington is playing good football with the understanding that it still hasn’t played its best football yet.
“You know, I’m so happy for the seniors because they are the ones who have kept us focused after a rough start (to the season),” said Covington coach Tyler Cates. “We are getting better and better every week. But still, there are some things we need to clean up. We need to do a better job in the passing game and a better job of minimizing penalties.”
Yes, it was a cold, wet evening in West Alexandria with a steady rain coming down on an already saturated field, but Covington won’t use that as an excuse for completing just four of nine passes for 65 yards.
“That’s disappointing because we have so many weapons,” Cates said of the passing game. “We like to spread it around and that’s what is going to make us harder to beat when teams can’t key on one or two kids. We have to improve in the passing game.”
Fortunately for Covington, the running game was as dominant as ever as 14 Buccaneer backs combined to rush for 366 yards and score six times on the ground. Plus, only once did Covington put the ball on the ground, but it was recovered by a Buccaneer player resulting in the second time this year they didn’t have a turnover.
“On a night like this where the field is all muddy and the ball is wet and slippery, that’s pretty impressive,” said Cates of his kids not putting the ball on the ground. “We’re doing a much better job of ball security than earlier in the year. That’s a tribute to our backs, receivers and quarterback.”
What was most impressive was how Covington was able to use so many backs to accumulate the 366 yards of rushing. The most any back carried the ball was five times and that was Gage Kerrigan with five carries for 105 yards and two scores and the Brayden Wiggins with five carries for 46 yards.
“That’s a credit to our offensive line,” praised Cates. “Our line is getting better and better every week, especially run blocking. We’ve had some adversity with injuries and have had to move kids around, but most of the kids are healthy up front. They opened some huge holes tonight.”
And it started on the opening possession of the game as Covington used a nice return by Trentin Alexander to near midfield for excellent field position. Shortly thereafter Gage Kerrigan powered his way in from four yards out for a 7-0 lead.
The Buccaneer defense then held Twin Valley South to a three-and-out, but the Panthers received a huge break as Covington was called for a roughing penalty on the punter to give the Panthers a first down.
But that would be the only first down the Panthers accumulated throughout the game as Covington held the Twin Valley South to just 23 yards of total offense.
“Our defense has been playing awesome,” praised Cates. “The last two games we’ve pitched a shutout defensively. The last time our defense has given up any points was three weeks ago on the first drive against Bethel. Last week the two points Bradford got was on our offense.”
After the Covington defense held once again, Alexander had a nice return into Twin Valley South territory that set up a three-yard run by sophomore Duncan Cooper and a two-point conversion run by Brayden Wiggins.
Covington extended its lead to 22-0 after one with a 60-yard scoring run by Kerrigan and then pushed the margin to 36-0 at the break with a one-yard run by Eli Gerling and an eight-yard touchdown pass from Cade Schmelzer to Kadin Presser.
With the running clock applied throughout the second half, Covington didn’t miss a beat while emptying its bench as Alex Schaffer scored on a 53-yard run and then Trentin Alexander broke free on a 66-yard run to make the final score 50-0.
“We are winning this way because we are doing the little things right,” Cates said. “It’s the little details that make a difference and the kids are starting to understand that.”
The win improves Covington’s record to 6-3 overall and 6-1 in conference play with a home contest against National Trail being the only hurdle left to what the Buccaneers hope is a state playoff birth.
“We’re playing good football right now,” Cates said. “Hopefully it gets us in the playoffs where we can take our chances at a run there.”
Yes, seven weeks ago Covington’s playoff hopes where left for dead after losses to St. Henry, Minster and Fort Loramie.
And after six straight wins there are no guarantees to a week-eleven even if Covington were to beat National Trail next Friday.
But, at least the Buccaneers have given themselves a chance.