Last year Covington’s season ended with a controversial loss at Dyersburg in the state quarterfinals.
The year before that the Chargers’ season was stopped by COVID-19.
Neither Trojans nor global pandemic could slow down the Chargers this time around.
Using its typical dominant rushing attack and stellar defense, Covington beat Dyersburg 24-10 Friday night at home in the Class 3A state quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals for the fourth time in six seasons and 12th time in program history.
The Chargers (11-2) will host East Nashville Friday night with the winner playing Alcoa or Giles County Dec. 2 in Chattanooga for the Class 3A state title.
Covington beat Dyersburg (8-5) 34-0 during the regular season, but this time around was much more competitive.
Trailing 21-10 with the ball after a Covington punt, Dyersburg had a chance to make things really interesting midway through the fourth quarter. Covington’s defense came up with a stop, however. Jamarion Dowell broke a 40-yard run moments later to set up a 22-yard field goal by Gabe Wellentin and Dyersburg never threatened again.
“All offseason,” Covington head coach J.R. Kirby said when asked if the team ever thought about the 2021 postseason loss to Dyersburg. “We don’t forget the losses, we don’t forget the tears and we don’t forget the heartache.”
“It had been on our minds since we walked off that field when they beat us,” said Dowell, who rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. “This game right here had been planned on. We looked forward to playing them.”
“It’s a great feeling, especially with the team we have,” said Covington quarterback Braden Gover, who completed 3 of 4 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. “It’s great to be going back (to the semifinals).”
Two time-consuming Covington drives to the start the game set the tone.
The first went 63 yards, took six minutes off the clock and ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Dowell. The second covered 83 yards and took eight minutes off the clock. That one culminated with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Gover to Blake Travis to give Covington a 14-0 lead with 6:22 left in the first half. The possession was highlighted by a 37-yard run by Skylan Smith, who finished with 97 yards on 23 carries.
Covington’s lead was pushed to 21-3 on another short TD run by Dowell with 3:36 left in the third quarter. That drive covered 80 yards.
“We gutted one out,” Kirby said. “It was a quarterfinal-type game. You’ve seen these types of games and we had to gut one out, survive and move on.”
This will be Kirby’s second trip to the semifinals as Covington’s head coach. The other one came in 2019 when Covington lost on the road to Pearl-Cohn 21-20. This time around the Chargers will get their shot at a title game inside the friendly confines of George Pinner Stadium.
“I’m proud of the guys, the coaching staff, everybody,” Kirby said. “It’s been a lot of hard work getting back here. Give Dyersburg a lot of credit, they played extremely hard and we did too, but we’re in the final four and I couldn’t be any happier about that.”