Entering Friday night’s game between county rivals Covington and Brighton, the Chargers had beaten the Cardinals six straight times, and none of them were close. The combined score of those six games: Covington 280, Brighton 65. Covington won last year’s game 49-6.
From the outset of Friday’s game in Covington, it was clear this game was going to be different.
When Nolan Carson booted a school-record 48-yard field goal with 6:28 left in the second quarter, the Cardinals led 24-14 and it looked like Covington’s winning streak vs. Brighton could be in jeopardy.
But the Chargers held Brighton to three points the rest of the game and extended their winning streak vs. Brighton to seven with a 35-27 win.
After the game, first-year Brighton coach Keith Setler did not mince words when asked if he was happy with playing a competitive game against Covington.
“Not at all,” Setler said. “I was not hired to come here and play a great game (vs. Covington). I’m not interested in that crap. I told the kids they can forget any kind of moral victory crap. I was hired to beat Covington and we didn’t get it done, period, so that’s that on that.”
Brighton’s passing offense, led by senior quarterback Cade Crowson, was on fire in the first half. Crowson (16-for-24, 281 yards) hit Hunter Lampley on a 30-yard touchdown pass to put Brighton ahead 7-0 and that was a harbinger of things to come.
After Pierce Meacham ran 31 yards for a TD and a 14-7 Brighton lead, Crowson found Tay Bonner for a 49-yard TD strike to push the lead to 21-14. Crowson had 234 passing yards in the first half.
“The Crowson kid played a hell of a game and the receivers played well,” Covington coach J.R Kirby said. “They got on us and had a great plan. We had to make some adjustments to the speed of the game. Credit our defensive staff, Coach K (Johnny Katroski) and them, for coaching us up. We’re a work in progress in a lot of areas.”
While Covington’s defense struggled to get stops in the first half, the offense kept pace with Brighton (0-2). Junior Skylan Smith, who had a monster game with 244 yards and four TDs on 31 carries, had a 41-yard run on Covington’s second possession and scored from four yards out to tie the game at 7-7. He scored again on a 15-yard run to tie game at 14-14 late in the first quarter and scored from 28 yards out late in the first half to cut Brighton’s lead to 24-21.
With 31 seconds left in the first half, Braden Gover hit Aden Deverell on a 59-yard touchdown and Covington (1-1) never trailed again.
“We came back and executed in the second half and held them to three points,” Smith said. “On offense, we just kept driving the ball down the field on them. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without our o-line. They kept making a bunch of good blocks.”
Carson kicked a 25-yard field goal with 5:39 left in the game to pull Brighton within eight points, but when Covington got the ball back they never gave it up. With 3:23 left and the Chargers facing a fourth and one near midfield, Gover came up with a three-yard run and a Covington victory was sealed.
“In the second half, penalties should not have happened and we had a dumb penalty after a long run,” Setler said. “More importantly, they ate up the clock. On one drive we had four penalties that allowed them to score on that drive. That shouldn’t have happened. We can’t let that happen. When you have a team stopped, championship teams don’t allow that drive to continue. We’re not there yet. My job is to get them there.”
“This was a tough win against a bigger opponent,” Kirby said. “It was closer than it’s been in the past. You have to give them credit. Coach Setler had his kids ready to go. I’m proud of our guys to get a win … Give Brighton credit. They had us on the ropes and credit to our guys for making plays and that last drive grinding it out, putting it away and doing what we do best.”
Several Brighton receivers had solid games. Bonner caught three balls for 79 yards, Lampley had three catches for 68 yards and Taylon Carpenter caught four for 49.
Gover completed 4 of 9 passes for 70 yards and ran for 22 more.
Both teams will now turn their attention toward region opponents. Brighton hosts Ridgeway on Friday and Covington travels to Dyersburg.
“We gotta learn from this and take that rage and all the lessons we learned out here and get ready for Ridgeway,” Setler said.
“It’s easy to listen to the noise, and there was a lot of noise,” Kirby said, referring to the Week 1 loss vs. Munford. “You lose one game around here and everybody thinks the sky is falling. I’m happy for the young guys and our seniors. That’s every year they’ve beaten Brighton. Now we go back to work and get ready for the real season.”