The 2020 high school football season has been like no other because of COVID-19, but for Covington, so far at least, it’s been eerily similar to the 2019 season.
Last year Covington raced to a 6-0 record, ascended to No. 2 in the Class 3A state poll, lost consecutive games to Milan and South Gibson, won in Week 9 and headed into the regular season finale against McNairy Central needing a win to secure a playoff spot.
This year Covington raced to a 6-0 record, ascended to No. 2 in the Class 3A state poll, lost consecutive games to Milan and South Gibson, won in Week 9 and now heads into the regular season finale against McNairy Central needing a win to secure a playoff spot.
“Same scenario, exact same scenario as last year,” Covington head coach J.R. Kirby said. “It’s like I’m living in freakin’ ‘Groundhog Day.'”
The game scores from the two seasons are also very similar. Covington lost to 14-7 to Milan both seasons and, just like like last year, South Gibson scored a fourth quarter TD to edge Covington again.
If Covington beats McNairy Central at home Friday (the Chargers won 37-27 last season in Selmer) the Chargers are in the playoffs as the third seed. If Covington loses and Westview wins at first-place Milan Friday night, Covington would miss the playoffs.
One thing that is different from last season is that the Chargers are going to battle with a new quarterback. Junior Jalen Fayne, who had never played quarterback in his life, stepped into the position two weeks ago against South Gibson with starter Carson Ruffin still recovering from an ankle injury.
Fayne, who is also a starting defensive back and kick/punt returner, completed 8 of 14 passes for 118 yards and ran for 47 more.
“I thought he played extremely well against South Gibson despite never playing quarterback before,” Kirby said. “I think it’s going really well. The kids have really rallied behind him. He’s taken that role very seriously. He’s willing to do whatever he needs to do to win. I wish we had a whole team like him. He’s definitely not a me guy.”
Covington had its bye week Oct. 9 (between Milan and South Gibson) and picked up a COVID forfeit win last week against Sheffield. Assuming the Chargers make the playoffs, they will not play next week either in round one of the playoffs because Region 8-3A teams are not playing this year.
That means heading into a round two playoff game Covington would have only played three games from Oct. 2 to Nov. 13.
Last Friday Kirby had his players don uniforms and play a simulated game to try and stay sharp.
“We really pushed them and they responded,” Kirby said. “We simulated some adversity and they did well. The kids are ready to get out there and compete. They hope it’s not the last time we play at home.”
Last year Covington rebounded from those two regular season losses by beating South Gibson in the playoffs and finishing two points away from a third straight berth in the state title game.
“Like I told the team, we overcame it last year and made a run to the semifinals. Our kids have a lot of heart and a lot of fight,” Kirby said. “These seniors, some of whom have played since they were freshmen, they’ve seen us make these runs before. I don’t know if we handled it (adversity) as well last year at times as we have this year so far. They definitely have confidence that we can get back because we know we didn’t get blown out.”
The last time Covington lost by double digits was the 2017 state title game.
“We’ve been here before. I don’t like being here. I’d rather be sitting as the one seed and saying you have to come to Covington, but it is what it is and things happen for a reason. We just have to keep working … We can’t use injuries as an excuse. Some people might, but we don’t do that here.”