The Covington Chargers had to make a road trip to Melrose last Friday to open the 2019 Class 3A state playoffs.
They made it look hard in the first half, losing a pair of fumbles at the Melrose 4 and inside the 20, scoring just 12 points.
The Chargers, however, righted the ship in the second half for a 48-6 win to advance to the second round.
”The team took Melrose too lightly,” said Covington head coach J.R. Kirby. “We had a serious conversation in the locker room at the half. We had just been going through the motions. I think that they got the message and played an entirely different second half. Senior leadership for this young team helped to turn the page.”
Jamarion Dowell (six rushes/35 yards) gave the Chargers (9-2) an early lead on a four-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Carson Ruffin pushed the margin to 12-0 in the second period on a one-yard scoring scamper, but a couple of defensive miscues allowed the Golden Wildcats to complete a 19 -yard TD pass that cut the margin to 12-6 at the half.
“We should have been up by three or four scores at the break,” said Kirby, “but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
It was a totally different picture in the final two quarters. Special teams and the defense combined to shut down the Wildcats and the offense put 36 points on the board, inlcuding 28 in the third period.
”We couldn’t have asked any more of the defensive effort,” Kirby said. “We allowed them 10 completions for 70 yards on 26 attempts and had an interception by Lareko Burton, the 14th by the CHS secondary this season.”
The Melrose running game did not fare so well. The Wildcats ran the ball 19 times and lost 45 yards for their efforts, giving the Charger defensive squad its best showing of the year with 25 net yards allowed.
Coopere Barbee blocked a Wildcat punt early in the 3rd period. Andrew Scott scooped it up and scored from 20 yards out to push the advantage to 19-6.
Scott wasn’t through.
With Marcus Hayes sidelined for the second straight game with an ankle sprain, Scott carried the load again, following last week’s 160 -yard rushing total with 153 yards on 28 carries and two offensive TDs. He scored three straight including the returned block punt with runs of one and 29 yards that increased the Covington lead to 32-6.
Myles Starks had an interception and he added a score on special teams with a 37-yard punt return for a TD to close the third period. Ruffin sneaked for a two-point conversion and it was Covington 38-6.
The final frame saw Melrose tagged with a safety. EuMorrion Flowers closed the scoring for the Chargers with a three-yard run late in the fourth.
The Chargers kept it on the ground for most of the game. Ruffin attempted just four passes, completing one for 8 yards. The running game was punishing with 359 yards on 54 carries. In addition to Dowell and Scott, Ruffin gained 89 yards on eight carries and Jaylen Fayne had four rushes for 33 yards.
This coming Friday night will find the Chargers on the road again against a familiar foe: the Region 7-3A champion South Gibson Hornets, who handed Covington it’s first region loss in three years, 21-14 four weeks ago.
”We will have to be better prepared and play a perfect game to come out on top,” Kirby said. “We dominated them in every category in the regular season game except for passing yards and on the scoreboard. We have to reduce penalties. I guarantee that we will have a game plan with more than a few wrinkles in it.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Medina.
If Covington wins and Wooddale beats Milan in another second-round game, the Chargers would host a quarterfinal game on Nov. 22. If Milan and Covington win, the Chargers would have to travel to Milan for a quarterfinal game.