Munford senior Brent Rhea breaks through the line for a game-tying touchdown Friday night in Covington. Munford broke a three-year losing streak against the Chargers with a 10-7 season-opening win. Photo courtesy Phil Ramsey/covingtonchargerfootball.com
Fans who thrive on offense had to have been disappointed at Friday's season-opening showdown between Covington and Munford in Covington.
Both squads struggled all night to get anything going offensively in a low-scoring contest won by the Cougars 10-7.
Munford senior Jovanny Rutiaga kicked a 29-yard field goal with 44 seconds left to give the Cougars their first win over Covington since 2010.
From their own 40 yard line with 5:49 left, the Cougars played ball control, using 13 plays to move into position for Rutiaga's game winner.
"Coach had faith in me the whole night," said Rutiaga. "I didn't think I was going to do it. I hadn't practiced it in practice, but I knew I could do it. I believed in myself and I kicked it."
Brent Rhea, another Munford senior, intercepted a Malcolm Taylor pass at midfield with nine seconds left in the game to seal the win.
"I never had any doubt (about the final field goal)," said Rhea, who scored the game-tying touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. "He (Rutiaga) is one of those kids who never stops, never gives up no matter what the problem is. We've been down 27-0 in the fourth quarter and he thinks we can come back."
First-year Munford head coach J.R. Kirby said kicking a field goal wasn't the plan until Covington got a couple of stops inside the 15.
"Jovanny, a senior, we just put it in his hands," Kirby said. "He's a kid that's my captain and the heart and soul of the football team and he came through in a big way."
The two teams combined for less than 350 yards of total offense and just 16 first downs.
Covington had its best statistical quarter in the first, gaining 53 yards on the ground and 20 in the air.
CHS was flagged for five of its 10 infractions in the opening period, stymying two different possessions.
"We did not get it done on offense," Covington head coach Marty Wheeler said. "We had no sense of urgency. We did not execute."
To make the situation worse, Aaron Foster, the Chargers' most skilled and experienced player on both sides of the ball, went out with a leg injury on the second play from scrimmage and not to return. The injury is not thought to be season ending.
Meanwhile, the Charger defense was giving the Cougars problems as well.
Munford managed only 13 yards on the ground in the first quarter and just 63 rushing yards in the first half.
Cougar quarterback Jacob Ross played it close to the vest, attempting only two passes in the game, both of which were incomplete.
The Chargers took a 7-0 lead at the 1:46 mark of the second period when Kelvin Stowers scooped up a Cougar fumble on a perfect bounce at the Munford 20 and sailed untouched to the end zone for CHS' only points of the night. Josh Owen added the PAT.
Neither team could manage to break through in the third period.
Munford tallied a total of 37 yards in the quarter to negative nine for Covington.
What amounted to an offensive explosion for the Cougars (122 yards in the period) propelled them to a TD with 8:42 left in the game. Rhea finished off an eight-play, 85-yard possession with a two-yard run and Dalton McCann's extra point knotted the score at 7-7.
Sixty of those yards came on one play. Andre Thomas broke the longest play of the night, a 45-yard scamper from the Cougar 25 to the Charger 40. Fifteen more were tacked on a late hit and the Cougars were in business on the Covington 25.
The Chargers came right back after Munford's score, moving to a third and one at the Cougar 21 with less than five minutes remaining.
A five-yard loss resulted in a fourth and 25 pass attempt that Rhea intercepted and returned to the Cougar 25. Another 15-yard personal foul against the Chargers gave the Cougars good field position.
The stats in the game were telling.
The Cougars totaled 188 net yards on 54 rushes. Covington had a meager 83 yards rushing. Taylor was 5 of 15 for 62 yards.
Thomas led all rushers with 71 yards on six carries. David Simon grounded out 48 yards on 16 carries, as did Xavier Throckmorton on 10 carries. T.J. Miller led the Covington attack, totaling 44 yards on seven carries. T.J. Smith added 12 runs for 33 yards for CHS.
"Our defense played well enough to win," Wheeler said. "But the credit goes to Munford. They made the plays and we did not. We have to play smart and execute and we did not. A defense cannot continually stay on the field and expect better results."
"Their kids played hard," Kirby said about Covington. "They were undersized and they played hard all night. In the end, the Cougars just found a way to win."
Jeff Ireland contributed to this story