By Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
COVINGTON — It is one more chance for a home game.
Which beats a long bus ride in the first round of the Division VI, Region 24 playoffs.
Covington will host Worthington Christian at 7 p.m. Friday night in the opening round of the playoffs.
Consider the other three first round games in Region 24 are Dayton Christian at Chillicothe Southeastern, Grandview Heights at Bainbridge Paint Valley and Mechanicsburg at Frankfort Adena.
“You are talking about an hour and a half or more (road trip),” Covington football coach Ty Cates said. “So we are thrilled to be in the situation we are in. And it is a chance for our seniors to play one more game on Smith Field (Covington’s home field).”
Both teams come into the game with an 8-2 record — and run similar types of offenses.
Still, a lot will be learned when they get on the field with each other.
“The only opponent they have that we know is Dayton Christian,” Cates said. “We know some of the teams Dayton Christian has played, but we don’t know Dayton Christian. The first quarter is going to be really important and interesting.”
Worthington Christian operates out of a spread offense.
Senior quarterback Lucas Hartings (6-foot-4, 185) has completed 128 of 221 passes for 2,164 yards and 22 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
He also has 329 yards rushing on 69 attempts.
“He does a good job back there,” Cates said. “And he is very good about scrambling for yardage.”
Junior Braden Anderson (6-0, 185) leads the rushing attack with 677 yards and nine touchdowns on 86 carries.
Sophomore DJ Moore (6-3, 187) is Hartings favorite target with 1,017 yards and 11 touchdowns on 47 receptions.
“He (DJ Moore) is a nice player,” Cates said. “We are going to have to do a good job. They like to throw the ball. We have made a lot of big plays on defense and hopefully we can do a good job in coverage.”
Worthington will show multiple looks on defense.
Anderson leads the defense with 72 tackles from his linebacker position.
Freshman linebacker Joshua Carrel (6-0, 171) has 67 tackles and senior defensive end Caleb Harper has 57 tackles and leads the pass rushing with 7.5 sacks.
Sophomore Jaiden Reynolds (5-10, 160) has three interceptions and senior Jake Thompson (6-3, 170) has two.
“It just depends if it is a pass formation or run formation (whether they go 4-3 or 4-4),” Cates said. “They aren’t as big as some of the teams we have played against. They have some taller guys — 6-3, 6-4 — around 190 or 200 pounds. They don’t have a the huge guys that we have seen a lot this season.”
Covington senior quarterback Cade Schmelzer (6-2, 195) has had another outstanding season in the Buccs’ spread offense.
He has completed 98 of 158 passes for 1,851 yards, but most importantly has thrown for 22 touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions.
“That is a great ratio,” Cates said.
The Buccs have shown great balance on offense.
Junior Trentin Alexander (5-9, 175) has rushed for 569 yards and two on 65 carries, while senior Brayden Wiggins (5-7, 170) has rushed for 498 yards on 65 carries.
Senior Andrew Cates (6-1, 185) leads the receivers with 39 catches for 799 yards.
“We probably run the ball a little more (than Worthington Christian),” Cates said. “And we have spread the ball around a little more and have a lot of guys involved.”
Covington’s 3-4 defense has shine all season.
They are allowing less than 10 points a game.
And they allowed more than six points just three times.
Junior linebacker Duncan Cooper (6-0, 175) leads the defense with 99 tackles and 10.5 sacks.
Alexander has 73 tackles and leads the pass rush with 14.5 sacks.
Junior Gavin Swank has 81 tackles from his linebacker position, while senior defensive lineman Jesse Fisher (6-0, 215) and senior linebacker Kadin Presser (6-2, 160) have nine sacks each; while Wiggins has eight sacks from his linebacker position.
Senior Kleyton Maschino (6-1, 155) has five interceptions and Wiggins has three.
“I think we are giving up nine points a game,” Cates said. “We have been playing really well of late. Hopefully, we can get pressure on the quarterback. Our defense has made a lot of big plays and scored points all season.”
Both teams lost only to teams that advanced to the postseason.
Worthington Christian lost to D-VI playoff teams Northmor 42-17 and Trimble 34-6.
Covington’s losses came to D-VI Minster 35-25 and D-VII Fort Loramie 19-14.
“We are battle tested,” Cates said. “The kids know they have played against the best.”
The Loramie game ended with Covington three yards from the go-ahead touchdown.
“Hopefully, we will learn from that and execute better the next time we are in that situation,” Cates said. “You learn more from your losses than you wins.”
And the Buccs have a chance to makeup from last year when they had a week 11 loss to Lima Central Catholic.
“I know a lot of the guys were upset the way we played in that game,” Cates said. “They are looking forward to this opportunity.”
And stepping on to Smith Field one final time this season.
Contact Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser at email@example.com.
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