|Grant Babylon and the offensive line will need a huge performance in order for the Buccaneers to have offensive success against the Indians.
By Rob Kiser - Piqua Daily Call
COVINGTON - Nothing his football team does really surprises Covington football coach Ty Cates.
But even he was impressed with the way they responded to an unpredictable situation last Friday night in a Division VI regional semifinal with Chillicothe Southeastern.
The team’s leading receiver Andrew Cates and one of its leading rushers Brayden Wiggins, both went down with injuries within minutes of each other in the opening quarter.
Both are three-year starters.
Cates, a 6-foot-1, 185 pound senior caught 45 passes this season for 845 yards and was lost for the season.
Wiggins, a 5-7, 170-pound senior, rushed for 600 yards this season on 84 carries, had more than 60 tackles on defense and had eight sacks and three interceptions in the regular season.
Yet, junior Deacon Shields (5-9, 160) came in and rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown on eight carries and sophomore Connor Sindelir (5-9, 135) made big plays on defense as Covington went on to a 36-20 victory.
The Buccaneers will play Mechanicsburg in the Region 24 final Friday at 7 p.m. at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium/Purk Field.
“Both those guys are good football players,” Cates said. “And Dalton Weer stepped in and helped us as well. They would be starting on any other team. I can’t say enough about my team and the way they responded.”
Cates knows his team faces another big challenge Friday night in Mechanicsburg. Like the Buccs, the Indians are 10-2.
And like Covington, Mechanicsburg’s losses came to very good teams.
While Covington lost to playoffs teams Minster and Fort Loramie, the two teams that beat Mechanicsburg — West Jefferson and West Liberty-Salem — will be 10 miles to the north Friday night, playing for the D-V, Region 20 title at Sidney.
“Mechanicsburg is really good football team,” Cates said. “The two teams that beat them are playing each other Friday.”
On offense, the Indians will operate out of a Wing-t and use two different quarterbacks.
Sophomore Aaron Conley (5-9, 165) has completed 58 of 105 passes for 1,103 yards and 14 touchdowns, with four interceptions. He has also rushed for 305 yards on 59 carries.
Senior Logan Hurst (6-2, 185) has completed 30 of 47 passes for 412 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also rushed for 152 yards on 28 carries.
Sophomore Chayse Propst (6-0, 180) leads the rushing attack with 958 yards and 14 touchdowns on 83 carries.
“They do a lot of different things, but they love to run the Buck Sweep,” Cates said.
Junior Keith Bebout (5-10, 160) has 26 catches for 414 yards, while sophomore Jake Hurst (5-8, 165) has 23 catches for 452 yards.
Senior Mack Delong (5-8, 165) has 367 yards and seven touchdowns on 23 catches.
“They like to lull you to sleep with the run and and throw it behind you for big plays,” Cates said. “So, we have to be ready for that.”
Defensively, the Indians will switch between a 3-4 and 4-3 look.
Jake Hurst leads the defense with 86 tackles.
Senior linebacker Noah Wolfe 95-9, 175) has 62, while senior defensive lineman Kix Thiel (5-11, 190) has 55 tackles and leads the team with five sacks.
Junior defensive lineman Caden Coleman (5-9, 240) has 3.5 sacks.
Logan Hurst leads the secondary with four interceptions.
“They are quick and they have a lot of wrestlers, so they are pretty strong,” Cates said.
Bebout is also a threat on special teams.
He has averaged 35.7 yards on six kickoff returns and 11.0 yards on nine punt returns.
“Special teams can be a big part of the game,” Cates said. “From what we have seen on film, it looks like most teams have tried to kick away from him.”
Covington features a balanced offense.
Senior quarterback Cade Schmelzer (6-2, 195) has completed 111 of 180 passes for 1,957 yards.
More impressively, he has thrown for 24 touchdowns with just three interceptions.
Junior Trentin Alexander (5-9, 175) leads a balanced rushing attack with 725 yards on 79 carries. That included 101 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries in last week’s win.
Senior Kleyton Maschino (6-1, 155) has 40 catches for 538 yards.
Senior Nate Alexander (5-11, 300) led the offensive line with five pancake blocks during the season, while senior Jesse Fisher (6-0, 215) and junior Grant Babylon (5-11, 310) each had four.
The balance carries over to the defense.
Junior linebacker Duncan Cooper (6-0, 175), senior linebacker Kadin Presser (6-2, 160), Alexander, junior Gavin Swank (5-9, 165), senior defensive lineman Teague Deaton (5-11, 225) and Fisher all had more than 60 tackles during the regular season.
Alexander led the pass rush with 14.5 sacks during the regular season, while Cooper had 10.5 and Presser and Fisher added nine each.
Maschino leads the secondary with four interceptions.
“We spread the ball around because I think it makes us tougher to defend,” Cates said. “But, at the same time, you can’t do that if you don’t have the players to do it. In the past, we have played nine-10 guys both ways and this year we are playing 6-7. I am just blessed to have the players I have.”
Covington is making its sixth trip to the regional finals but hasn’t advanced to the state semifinals since 1985, when Charlie Burgbacher was the Buccs’ coach.
“I know we haven’t been there (to the regional finals), since 2012,” Cates said. “I know I haven’t been there and the players haven’t been there. But, we are trying to just focus on one game at a time.”
And while the 20-minute bus ride will be a short one compared to last week, Cates said in the end that won’t make any difference.
“It is nice, if you have it (a short bus ride),” he said. “We played Fort Recovery at Piqua when the seniors were freshman. They didn’t play, other than special teams. But, it is nice to be familiar with the facility. But, once the game gets going, it is just football.”
And another week of Cates watching his team continue to impress him.