Things were looking up for Brighton late in the first quarter of its home game Friday night against Covington.
Pierce Meacham broke a 41-yard touchdown run to cut Covington’s lead to 14-6 and Ryan Vandiver recovered the ensuing onside kick to give Brighton possession near midfield.
That’s when things fell apart.
Quarterback Bryan Bratcher fumbled and Covington’s A.C. Mason-Young returned it 56 yards for a touchdown. To make matters worse, Bratcher injured his arm on the play and was carted off the field.
Moments later, Covington’s Skylan Smith came up with a 98-yard touchdown run and the rout was on.
Covington (3-1) racked up 324 rushing yards and beat Brighton 49-6, its sixth straight win over the Cardinals.
“That fumble recovery and long run by Smith, those were game changers,” Covington head coach J.R. Kirby said. “They came out and did some different things and we made adjustments. In our scheme, our players know how to make adjustments.”
Bratcher’s injury was more bad luck for the Cardinals (1-3). He was playing in place of Cade Crowson, who broke his leg in last week’s loss to Overton and is out for the season. Standout running back Ty Stark also missed the game with an injury.
First-year Brighton head coach Morgan Cruce compared his team’s struggles to the biblical figure Jobe, who lost his livestock and family and asked God what was next.
“I know God’s working right now,” Cruce said after his team drooped its third straight game after a season-opening win at St. Benedict. “I know that he’s developing this program. He’s striping us down to where we need to be to build a strong program. I know that because we’re having to learn how to fight as a program, not being able to rely on one guy.”
Covington’s rushing attack was in top form most of the game.
Jamarion Dowell picked up 198 yards on just 11 carries and had touchdown runs of 36, 68, 22 and three yards. His 22-yarder with 4:32 left in the first quarter pushed Covington’s lead to 35-6 and his three-yarder just before halftime put Covington ahead 42-6, setting the stage for a running clock in the second half.
Smith scored twice and had 123 rushing yards on five carries. His 98-yarder came after a Brighton punt pinned Covington deep in its own territory.
“Very tiring,” Smith said with a smile when asked about his long run. “The offensive line blocked very good the whole game.”
Brighton managed 166 yards of offense with a backfield that included three sophomores most of the game. Meacham finished with 94 yards on 20 carries and Brenden Killinger, who replaced Bratcher, completed 6 of 17 passes for 63 yards.
“I was proud of those sophomores,” Cruce said. “All the guys are eager for a win and we’re about to enter a really tough four-week stretch.”
That stretch includes road region games against Memphis Central (this Friday) and Munford (Sept. 30).
As for the Chargers, they appear to be hitting their stride. They’ve won three straight games after a season-opening loss to Munford, which is undefeated and ranked third in the state in Class 5A.
“We talked about a championship mindset and a sense of urgency all week,” Kirby said. “I’m happy for these seniors. They beat Brighton all four seasons. That’s the first class to do that since the 2006 class … I’m proud of our kids. They’ve won three in a row and now it’s time to move on and try and make it four.”
Covington will be looking to move to 2-0 in Region 7-3A when it travels to Ripley this Friday.