Special teams, some special plays, and youthful mistakes on the part of an opponent set the stage for a big opening night for Covington…and a road win over St. Henry.

By Dale Barger for Press Pros

St. Henry, OH – A strong senior class and exceptional special teams play by visiting Covington was the difference in their opening night clash with St. Henry Friday. After consecutive losses of 22-0 in 2018 and 37-7 in 2017, the Buccaneers were able to turn the tables and post a 35-6 win over a Redskins team that appeared shell-shocked in the second half.

Ironcially, the game’s first half wasn’t well played, with a number of penalties and back-to-back turnovers.

Special teams doesn’t get mentioned a lot, but ask any coach and they’ll agree many times it can be the difference between winning and losing.  Because, after a few punts were traded back and forth in the first quarter it was St. Henry winning the battle of field position, setting themselves up on the 15 yard field goal attempt to put first points on the scoreboard.

But,  Covington senior Kadin Presser would turn in the first of three big special teams play as he blocked the kick attempt,  and teammate Duncan Cooper scooped up the carom and took it 85 yards the other way to put Covington on the board first, 7-0.

Special teams struck again late in the second quarter when Bradley Wiggins scored from nine yards out after Josh Latimer block a punt, giving Covington a 14-0 lead at the break.

St. Henry started to have success running the football in the third quarter and was able to finally get on the board when senior quarterback Andrew Lange took a one-yard keeper up the middle, cutting the lead to 14-6.

Covington’s Andrew Cates stiff-arms a St. Henry tackler on his way to a first half gain in Friday’s win.

But the Buccs’ Alex Shaffer took the ensuing kick-off up the left side to midfield’ where St. Henry had him corralled’ only to see him back out and reverse field to the opposite sideline.  Then, with fancy footwork Shaffer cut back against the grain into a seam in the middle of the field, and 82 yards later hit pay dirt, putting the Buccs back in control of the game, increasing their lead to 20-6.

The Buccs added three more scores in the fourth period,  including one wrap-up score by the JV team down the stretch to earn the 35-6 win.

Covington finished with 281 total yards – 231 on the ground and 50 in the air – while St. Henry totaled 157 yards, 99 passing and 58 on the ground.

Clearly excited for his team, Covington coach Tyler Cates was at a loss for words on the win.

“It’s hard to put into words tonight’s game,” said Cates. “A win like this against a storied program who has put it to us the last two years feels really good. This senior class has been on the other end of this the last two years, they stuck with it and believed in themselves, and I’ve never been prouder of a group then I am right now for them to get this win. They displayed strong leadership when they could have tightened up when St. Henry made a run at us in the third quarter. Our defense stood tall and we answered their score with another great special teams play.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to our special teams coordinator, Jeremy Yingst, who put a lot of pressure on me to work on them more, and how important was that tonight?   Football is played in three phases, and usually special teams gets you beat.  Tonight the momentum it gave our team was key.”

St. Henry Coach Brad Luthman would agree.

St. Henry’s Carter Ontrop reaches to make a catch during opening night action against Covington.

“We gave up 29 points and three  touchdowns were special teams, including a blocked field goal, a punt where we only had 10 guys out there…and that’s on us coaches…and the kick-off return,” said Luthman.

“Some of that come from learning and growing up. We got a lot of guys who are first-time starters going from no varsity to playing every snap both ways and special teams.  So it’s a learning curve for sure.  We’ll build off the things we did right, and I thought they showed a lot of heart – they fought and with three minutes to go in the third quarter we take it down and score.  So with a minute to go in the period we’re down 14-6 and it’s a game…but then they have that kick-off return.

“In general, we played bad football and got a bad result.  I mean, it is what it is.  The takeaway from this game is no excuses, admit you played bad football and get better,” Luthman concluded.

On the way to the bus Ty Cates was still beaming, proud of his players and coaches, alike.

“Our kids hustled and played relentless tonight, and I’m so very proud of all the guys and our coaching staff,”  he said.  “The defense was solid, and our offensive line play was good. And when you can run the football and your defense makes plays, you’re going to win a lot of football games.  And that what we were able to do that in the second half.”

Scoring Summary:
1st – Covington: Duncan Cooper 85-yard return off of blocked field goal by Kadin Presser. Kleyton Maschino Kick.
2nd – Covington: Brayden Wiggins 9-yard run. Maschino Kick.
3rd – St. Henry: Andrew Lange 1-yard run. Kick Failed.
3rd – Covington: Alex Shaffer 82-yard kick return. Kick Failed.
4th – Covington: Trentin Alexander 4-yard run. Maschino Kick.
4th – Covington: Safety
4th – Covington: DeAnthony Bennett 14-yard run. Kick Failed.