By Ben Robinson
BRANDT — The Covington Buccaneers got out to a fast start in the regular season finale on Friday and cruised to a 47-6 win over Cross County Conference rival Bethel.
The victory secured a state playoff birth for the Buccaneers, which will be officially announced on Sunday. Covington was sitting in the seventh spot in Regional 24 coming into the contest and needed a win along with some help to secure a spot in the top eight. Things fell into place and Covington moved all the way to fourth in the computer standings, which means a home playoff game next Friday against Worthington Christian.
And Covington made sure a win on Friday was in the cards it scored on each offensive possession of the first half outside of the final possession where the clock ticket away.
After holding the Bees to a three-and-out to start the game Covington drove the ball into the red zone, but found itself facing a fourth-and-14 at the Bethel 29. Cade Schmelzer and Alex Shaffer salvaged the drive on a 29-yard hookup to give the Buccs a 6-0 lead as the point-after attempt was blocked.
Bethel picked up a first down and appeared to have some momentum on the ensuing possession, but the Buccaneer defense stiffened to force a punt.
After a nice return by Dalton Weer set the Buccaneers up in Bethel territory, Schmelzer found Kleyton Maschino on a pass down the middle of the field to set the Buccaneers up at the 11.
Andrew Cates found nothing but green grass on the following play as he scooted 11 yards in for the score and a 12-0 lead as once again the point-after attempt failed.
Covington closed out the first quarter with a four-yard touchdown run by Duncan Cooper and Brayden Wiggins push the advantage to 20-0 by running in for a three-point conversion.
Bethel, which accounted for just 23 yards of offense in the first half, continued to struggle against the Covington defense and was forced to punt after another three-and-out.
Covington took advantage of the short field on a nine-yard run by Brayden Wiggins. The Buccaneers finally converted a kick to push their lead to 27-0 with 6:04 let in the half.
The Buccaneers held Bethel once again on a three-and-out and Dalton Weer broke the Bees’ backs on a 55-yard return for the score.
With the game played under a running clock in the second half, Covington scored on the opening possession after the break as Schmelzer found Kaden Presser open down the middle from 30 yards out.
Bethel continued to battle and took advantage of a Buccaneer fumble with a one-yard plunge by senior Walker Johnson early in the fourth quarter.
But the momentum didn’t last long as Covington’s Duncan Cooper turned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for the score.
Covington controlled the game from the outset with 349 total yards of offense to just 35 for Bethel.
Bethel ends its season at 1-9 overall and 1-7 in the CCC, while the Buccaneers advance to the post season with an 8-2 overall record and 7-1 in the CCC.