By Ben Robinson
FORT LORAMIE — Friday’s huge CCC showdown between Covington and Fort Loramie turned into an instant classic from the opening kickoff to when the outcome was decided on the final play – where the Redskins held off the Buccaneers 19-14.
The game had it all – great plays, frustrating miscues and a final play that will be argued by fans from both sides.
Covington received the ball first and used primarily the running game to move the ball deep into Fort Loramie territory. Junior fullback Trentin Alexander powered his way in from a yard out, but the touchdown was nullified due to a motion penalty.
The Buccaneers eventually came up empty as they fell a yard short of the goal line on a fourth-and-goal from the two.
Pinned deep in its own end, Fort Loramie managed to give itself some breathing room with a first down. But the Covington defense forced a punt and received the ball back at its own 44.
On the first play of the ensuing possession senior quarterback Cade Schmelzer connected with Andrew Cates, who made a beautiful cut to avoid a Redskin defender and raced 56 yards for the score. Kleyton Maschino made true on the extra point attempt to give Covington a 7-0 lead.
Fort Loramie responded with a drive of its own and had the ball inside the Buccaneer forty on a fourth-and-eight. A pass from Collin Moore to Mark Segar went for 12 yards to the Buccaneer 21 for a first down.
On the next play bruising fullback Max Hoying broke loose around the left end and bulled his way in from 21 yards out to tie the score at 7-7 as the first quarter came to a close.
Covington went three-and-out on its next possession and Fort Loramie took over at its own 29 after a nice punt by Kadin Presser.
The Redskins marched methodically down the field behind the power running of Hoying and the timely passing of Collin Moore. Perched inside the Buccaneer twenty, the Redskins’ drive was halted by Buccaneer linebacker Brayden Wiggins on an interception at the eight.
Covington once again went three-and-out and a 24-yard punt gave the Redskins the ball back at the Buccaneer 39.
But the Buccaneer defense came through, holding Fort Loramie to just three yards on four plays to take over possession at their own 36 with 3:03 left in the half.
With momentum on its side, the Covington offense moved the ball at will with pin-point passes by Cade Schmelzer. Facing a first-and-twenty at the Fort Loramie 35 after a penalty, Covington made a critical mistake by putting the ball on the ground. Max Hoying scooped up the fumble for Fort Loramie and raced 65 yards for the score. The extra point attempt was blocked by Covington’s Kadin Presser, leaving the score at 13-7 in favor of the Redskins with 1:18 left in the half.
Covington started its next possession on its own 44 after a nice return by Alex Schaffer and moved the ball deep into Fort Loramie territory. Unfortunately the Buccaneers ran out of time and the two teams went into the break with the Redskins holding a 13-7 lead.
Neither team could get much offense going for much of the third as both teams went three-and-out on their first possessions of the second half and Fort Loramie was forced to punt the ball away on its second possession.
Covington received the ball at its own 49 and put together a drive to the Redskin four before a penalty moved the Buccaneers back to the 14.
Facing a fourth-and-goal at the nine, Covington attempted a halfback pass that was picked off in the end zone by Fort Loramie’s Sam Barhorst with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Buccaneer defense held the Redskins on three straight plays to force a punt, which was blocked by Covington’s Duncan Cooper. Unfortunately for the Buccs, a player tried to scoop up the ball as it rolled toward the Fort Loramie sideline. The ball bounced off of Covington’s hands and Fort Loramie recovered to retain possession and give its offense a new set of downs.
The gift by the Buccaneers didn’t last long as Covington linebacker Brayden Wiggins made a huge play by forcing a Fort Loramie fumble on the very next snap of the ball. Trentin Alexander stopped up the fumble and scooted untouched 20 yards for the score to give Covington a 14-13 lead with 10:04 left in the game.
But like it had done throughout the contest, the Fort Loramie offense responded to Covington’s momentum-changing plays. Collin Moore connected with Damon Mescher on a huge pass play to the Buccaneer four and two plays later Moore finished off the drive with a three-yard scoring run. The run for two points failed, making the score 19-14 in favor of the Redskins with 8:10 left in the game.
Covington shot itself in the foot on the ensuing possession as a penalty on first down put the Buccaneers behind the chains. After a sack and another penalty, Covington as eventually forced to punt on a fourth-and-32 situation, which gave Fort Loramie excellent field position at the Buccaneer 46.
But the Covington defense was up to the task – as it had been throughout the contest. Kleyton Machino picked off a Redskin pass to give the Buccaneers the ball at their own 17 with 1:57 left in the game – which set up an amazing finish.
With time a huge factor, Covington quarterback Cade Schmelzer led the Buccaneers down the field with quick passes to Andrew Cates, Kleyton Maschino and Kadin Presser to keep the chains moving. Once across the Fort Loramie 50, Schmelzer connected with Maschino on a deep ball to the Redskin one with 24 seconds left on the clock.
Still holding a timeout in their pocket, the Buccaneers attempted to run the ball on the next play, but were stuffed just inches short of the goal line by the Redskin defense. After using a timeout, Covington tried running the ball again and came up just short of the goal line on second down.
As the clocked continued to tick away, Covington snapped the ball with 8 seconds left and attempted a pass to Presser in the left corner of the end zone – which was ultimately the final play of the game.
And that final play, as previously mentioned, will have fans from both sides arguing about the result as the ball fell to the ground – incomplete.
For Covington – fans, players and coaches were screaming for pass interference as Presser appeared to be taken to the ground before the ball arrived. Plus, many argued there was still 0.8 seconds left on the clock and there should have been one more play.
For Fort Loramie, it appeared as though the defensive back didn’t impede the Buccaneer receiver – the receiver stumbled to the ground on his own as he attempted to adjust to the ball and the official was in position to make the correct call.
Regardless of who is right or wrong, what matters most is this was a great high school football game between two great teams who were evenly matched. It was also a game between two teams who have the potential to make deep runs in the post season.
It was really an instant classic and hopefully 11 weeks from now both teams can look back on this game as one that took each program to another level.