There were doubters at the beginning of the 2019 season.
Doubt that this Charger team young team could continue deep runs into the playoffs. Many said that making the quarterfinals would be an accomplishment. Doubt gave way to jubilation Friday night as the Chargers blew past the quarterfinals by whitewashing the Wooddale Cardinals 27-0 to advance to CHS’ third consecutive semifinal appearance in the Class 3A playoffs.
It’s the first time in program history the Chargers have advanced to the semifinals three straight seasons.
“We had a couple of tough losses along the way,” said head coach J.R. Kirby, “but, with backs to the wall, the players and the staff responded. We went on the road and beat McNairy, then Melrose and then Region 7 champ South Gibson followed by Region 8 champ Wooddale and here we are back in the semifinal.”
The Chargers (11-2) will play in Nashville against Pearl-Cohn (13-0) on Friday at 7 p.m. with a third straight state title game appearance for Covington up for grabs.
Covington’s kickoff woes from a round two playoff game befell Wooddale (10-3) from the start.
A squib kick that may or may not have been an onside attempt was batted around until Torris Smith grabbed it and sprinted to the Cardinal 33. Facing a fourth and three, Carson Ruffin handed off to Andrew Scott, who plowed into the end zone for the first of his three touchdowns in the game.
Wooddale muffed the ensuing kickoff. Myles Starks, who also had an interception, recovered the ball at the Cardinal 19. Four plays later Scott found paydirt again.
“Scott (19 carries, 116 yards) had another big night,” said Kirby. “Colbye Somerville stepped up and had a really good game with 61 yards on 18 carries as did Jamarion Dowell, who picked up 46 yards and scored a two-point conversion.”
For the night the Chargers amassed 230 yards on 47 carries.
The Chargers added to the Cardinals’ woes with an 85-yard scoring drive in the second quarter. Forty-eight of those yards came on a first down run by Scott. Three Somerville rushes set up a first and goal at the 7 and Scott recorded his final score two plays later.
The coup de gras came in the third quarter when Josh McGarity hauled in the one completion of Ruffin’s three attempts, a 43-yard scoring strike, that broke Wooddale’s back.
“We knew coming in that they would throw the ball at lot,” Kirby said. “The plan was to play zone defense in the secondary and keep their QB in the pocket to take away his scrambling ability”
Kirby could hardly have asked for more on the defensive side of the ball.
McGarity had an interception in the end zone to end a scoring threat. Covington’s defense has 18 interceptions in 2019. Coooper Barbee had a pair of sacks and the Covington defense turned back Wooddale from a first and goal at the 5. Caleb Winfrey had a monster night that included a fumble recovery.
“It could have been more lopsided,” Kirby said. “Jalen Fayne had an interception returned for a touchdown that was called back on a penalty and we dropped another sure interception. Still, the secondary did its job, holding the Cardinals to nine completions for 105 in 31 attempts with two interceptions. They gained 94 yards on 25 carries.”
Now comes the next step against Pearl-Cohn, which is ranked second in the state. Covington beat Pearl-Cohn two seasons ago in the semifinals.
“We can expect a team similar to the one we saw two years ago.” Kirby said. “They have size and speed. A big defensive line and good linebackers. They will spread it out, but will lean more heavily on the run. Their quarterback can throw the ball and pull it down and run it. We will have to play mistake-free football. I feel like Scott will be able to get his yards. Hopefully (Marcus) Hayes will be back (from injury). I have the feeling, if we can get to the perimeter on them, we will have the chance to do some damage. It will take a monumental effort.”