By Ben Robinson
ST. HENRY — When former Covington athletic director Roger Craft was fortunate enough to get St. Henry on the schedule in 2013 for the first game of the season, it was done to provide the Buccaneers stiff competition in order to find out the strength and weaknesses of the team before heading into league play.
Now, in the seventh straight season opener against St. Henry, the Buccaneers learned they can find different ways to win in big games.
And tonight, in a 35-6 victory over the Redskins, the Buccaneers used the strength of its special teams units to get out to a fast start and then break a close game open in the second half.
“Our special teams play was big tonight,” said Covington coach Ty Cates. “A lot of people tend to forget about special teams and it is a big part of the game. We worked on it a little more this year and it sure payed off tonight.”
First, with St. Henry attempting a field goal late in the first quarter, Covington’s Kadin Presser broke through the middle of the line and blocked the kick. Presser then had the presence of mind to stay on his feet and chase the ball down, only to have the ball bounce off of his hands as he dove for the loose pigskin.
Fortunately, the ball bounced up into the hands of teammate Duncan Cooper, who raced 85 yards down the St. Henry sideline for the score and a 7-0 lead after Kleyton Maschino made true on the point-after kick.
The remainder of the first half remained a defensive struggle between the two teams until Covington got a big break by the special teams unit once again thanks to a nice punt return by Trentin Alexander into St. Henry territory.
A few plays later Brayden Wiggins scooted his way in from nine yards out to push the Covington lead to 14-0 at the break.
“The defense played very well tonight,” Cates said. “To hold a team like that scoreless for a half of football and to six points in the entire game says a lot about our defense.”
Covington wasn’t able to do much on the opening possession of the second half, but once again the Buccaneer defense appeared to make a huge play on a third-and-long pass attempt by St. Henry as ball landed harmlessly to the turf.
Unfortunately for Covington, the yellow flag came out and the Redskins were given new life inside the Buccaneer ten. Four plays later St. Henry broke pay dirt on a one-yard run by Andrew Lange on fourth-and-goal. The attempt for the extra point was wide right, leaving the score 14-6 in favor of Covington.
Still, St. Henry had gained the momentum and brought its large student section to life. But Covington was able to turn the tables on one play as Alex Schaffer – thanks to a huge block by Presser – returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for the score and a 20-6 lead.
“That was the play of the game,” said Cates. “They had the momentum and we responded right away.”
And Presser’s block to bring Shaffer was the key.
“Presser had a huge game tonight,” praised Cates. “The blocked punt led to a touchdown and his block on the kick return led to another touchdown. Plus, he played well defensively.”
Trailing 20-6 to start the fourth quarter, St. Henry never could recover.
“I think they were deflated after the kick return,” said Cates of St. Henry.
And Covington took advantage with a four-yard scoring run by Trentin Alexander and then capped off the effort with yet another big play by the special teams – a safety on an attempted punt by St. Henry with 5:19 left in the game.
Leading 29-6, Covington put the junior varsity players into the game and the younger kids closed out the contest with a 14-yard scoring run by freshman DeAnthony Bennett with 19 seconds left.
“This was a complete team win across the board,” Cates said. “The kids played unselfish football tonight – didn’t care about individual stats and played for each other.”
In all, Covington racked up 242 yards of total offense to 151 for St. Henry.
And where the Buccaneers were most successful was in the ground game as they tallied 199 rushing yards spread out among ten players who had touches.
“When you can play defense and run the ball like we did tonight, you’ll win a lot of football games,” Cates said. “Then to get the big plays on special teams, that makes it that much harder on the other team. It was a great night to be a Bucc.”
Covington (1-0) looks to keep the early season momentum rolling next Friday in the home opener against Minster.