|Alex Shaffer returns a kickoff against Miami East.
|Bowen Swank drops back into pass protection.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2017 - CASSTOWN
Going into Friday's critical Cross County Conference showdown with league rival Miami East, Covington coach Tyler Cates knew his team had to play mistake-free football in order to give itself a chance to win.
"I think it will come down to whoever makes the least amount of mistakes," said Cates earlier in the week. "If we can minimize penalties and eliminate turnovers, we should have a good chance of winning."
Cates' intuition was spot on.
Unfortunately, his team didn't accomplish those objectives and pretty much gift wrapped opportunities for Miami East with 10 penalties and four turnovers.
And the Vikings gladly accepted each one of the Buccaneer miscues and took advantage of every one in building a 34-12 lead midway through the fourth quarter - the latest being a two-yard scoring plunge by junior quarterback Ian Gengler after an interception by Jacob Brown.
It's what good teams do and a major reason Miami East moved on to 5-1 overall and in contention for the CCC crown with a 34-26 win.
It's also why Covington came up short of a miraculous comeback - a comeback that shouldn't have been needed - and fell to 2-4 overall and 2-2 in the CCC - all but ending its hopes of a third straight league title.
"We beat ourselves with too many mistakes," said a disappointed Tyler Cates after the game. "Turnovers, penalties, those things killed us."
After holding Miami East to a three-and-out to start the game, the Buccaneers broke through first on a one-yard scoring plunge by senior Ethan Herron on their first drive of the game.
Still, the drive was a sign of things to come as Covington had a touchdown pass from Cade Schmelzer to Tyler Freeman called back due to a penalty and faced a first-and-goal from the 30 due to two more penalties.
After two runs by Herron, Schmelzer found a crease down the Viking sideline and was brought down at the one for fourth-and-goal after a gain of 24 yards. Herron did the rest by powering his way in from a yard out to give the Buccs a 6-0 lead as the kick for the point-after was off the mark.
The Covington defense then had Miami East stopped on a third-and-long, but a Buccaneer penalty kept the drive alive.
And Miami East was able to capitalize with a 22-yard scoring run by Vincent Villella to tie the score at 6-6 as the point-after attempt was blocked by Covington.
"We had a hard time tackling number twenty-two (Villella)," Cates said. "He runs hard and he's shifty, but we didn't wrap up very good at times."
Still, the Covington offense seemed to be in a rhythm as it moved the ball deep into Miami East territory once again on the ensuing possession.
But Blaine Brockschmidt picked off a Buccaneer pass attempt into the end zone and returned the theft to midfield.
A few plays later Villella powered his way in from three yards out to give Miami East its first lead of the contest, 13-12.
Covington then put together a drive of its own before the half and was able to capitalize with a one-yard plunge by Joey Schmelzer to cut the deficit to 13-12 as the two-point conversion attempt failed.
"Even though we didn't play our best football in the first half, I liked were we stood," said Cates. "We had the ball to start the second half and we knew we were moving the ball at will. We felt if we could clean up our mistakes, we'd be fine."
Unfortunately, once again for the Buccaneers, they couldn't clean up their mistakes as they turned the ball over via fumble deep in Miami East territory on the opening possession of the second half.
And Miami East was able to turn the field position into its favor as it pinned Covington deep on a punt on the ensuing possession.
Which led to another critical mistake by the Buccaneers as Colt Frazier picked off a Covington pass and returned it inside the red zone to put the Vikings in excellent field position.
A few plays later Gengler was able to lunge his way in from a yard out to push the Viking lead to 20-12.
After Covington turned the ball over on downs, Miami East went back to work with its ground-and-pound offensive attack.
The result was a long, time consuming drive that ate up the remainder of the third quarter and five seconds of the fourth quarter as Villella scored from five yards out to push the Viking lead to 27-12.
Looking to strike quickly, Covington went to a little trickery on its next possession, but a halfback pass was picked off by Jacob Brown and returned to the Buccaneer 12.
Four plays later Gengler bulldozed his was in from the two to push the Viking advantage to 34-12 with 5:31 left in the game.
"We dug ourselves in a hole and had to find a way to battle out of it," Cates said. "I'm proud of the way our kids continued to fight."
Fight Covington did as it took the ensuing possession the length of the field and capitalized on a 17-yard scoring strike from Cade Schmelzer to Andrew Cates to cut the deficit to 34-19 with just under 4:00 left in the contest.
After a successful onside kick, Covington was back in business at midfield.
A critical run for a first down by Schmelzer put the Buccaneers at the Viking 17 and he hit Cates once again for a scoring strike to cut the deficit to 34-26 after the point-after attempt by Herron went through the uprights.
Once again, Covington was able to successfully pounce on the onside kick attempt and had the ball in the center of the field with 2:00 left.
But four straight pass attempts netted no yards, giving Miami East the ball back with 1:37 left in the game.
Covington forced Miami East to punt and the Vikings were able to pin the Buccs back at its own three with 49 second left.
And despite moving the ball to midfield, the Buccaneers ran out of time as Miami East held on for the 34-26 win.
"This is a disappointing loss because we put so much into this," said Cates. "I know we are young, but that's not an excuse anymore. A lot of the mistakes made tonight were by the seniors. We dug ourselves a hole by making too many bonehead mistakes and couldn't fight our way out of it."
In all, Covington racked up 425 yards of total offense to just 249 for Miami East.
But the ten penalties and four turnovers were too much to overcome.
Covington, now 2-4 overall and 2-2 in the CCC, looks to rebound next Friday at home against Bethel.