Every coach in the long history of high school football, and really any sport, likes to talk about his team facing adversity.
Sometimes it’s real. Other times it’s imagined.
Covington did not face that much adversity during the last two regular seasons, going a combined 19-1 on the way to state title games.
When this year started, things appeared to be going the same way.
Then the Milan game happened in Week 7 as Covington, ranked second in the state and undefeated, lost. Two weeks later the unthinkable happened again as South Gibson handed the Chargers loss number two.
Those two losses put Covington in a precarious spot as it prepared to play McNairy Central last Friday. The Chargers could miss the playoffs with a loss.
A large crowd on hand for McNairy Central’s senior night was fired up and ready to watch its team take down mighty Covington.
The fans who made the two-hour trip from Covington, as well as the players, knew exactly what was at stake, too.
“My teammates, as far the seniors, knew that they had to do,” said Covington running back Andrew Scott moments after his team’s 37-27 win. “I was just making sure the underclassmen knew they had to step up because I didn’t want this to be my last. We all knew we had to step up and make this one count.”
Scott certainly made it count. With star running back Marcus Hayes missing the second half with an injury, Scott had the best game of his career.
In the previous nine games, Scott ran 22 times for 167 yards. Against McNairy he racked up 160 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, nearly doubling his output for the season. Just about every run was right through the middle of the McNairy defense.
“I’m definitely a little score,” Scott said with a laugh after the game.
Safety Josh McGarity also admitted the thought of this possibly being his last game had crossed his mind.
“We were just thinking we had to survive, just a playoff mentality,” McGarity said. “We had to win and not go home. We’ve faced adversity and we know we have to keep our head up and go through it so we can stick this out as long as we can.”
As it turned out, because Milan finished off a win over Westview later that night, Covington still would have made the playoffs with a loss. But that wasn’t really the point of the night.
Covington’s seniors faced some real regular season adversity, the kind that can end a season, for the first time, and they responded.
“The message was just to get better., don’t let it be your last game,” Covington head coach J.R. Kirby said after the game. “Those two losses opened some eyes. We had to adjust some things and that has been the topic of discussion. We had to do what we had to do to win.”
More adversity will no doubt be coming as Covington navigates the playoffs. If the Chargers can get past Melrose in round one they will almost certainly have to travel to Medina in round two for a rematch against South Gibson.
“We have to go on the road, but we don’t really care,” Kirby said. “We’re in the tournament and we’ve got a chance to go play for one (a title) and that’s what we want to do.”
What: Covington (8-2) vs. Melrose (6-4) in Class 3A first round
When: Today at 7 p.m.
Storylines: Two key players for Covington – leading rusher Marcus Hayes and senior linebacker Caleb Winfrey – missed the majority of last week’s game with injuries. They’re availability could be a key tonight … This is not the Melrose program of the 1990s and 2000s, which was one of the best in the state. The Golden Wildcats have only won one playoff game the past five seasons … Covington beat Melrose 49-6 in the first round of the playoffs last season.
What’s next: The winner plays South Gibson or Sheffield next Friday.
What: Munford (7-3) vs. Clarksville (6-4) in Class 5A first round
When: Today at 7 p.m.
Storylines: Clarksville lost four of its first six games this season before winning four in a row to finish third in Region 7-5A … According to coacht.com, Munford played the 25th toughest schedule in Class 5A this year. Seven of Munford’s opponents are in the playoffs. The Cougars’s three losses came against Covington, ECS and Southwind, three very good teams … The last time Munford hosted a playoff game was 2017 when Munford defeated Clarksville 42-14.
What’s next: The winner plays Henry County or Ridgeway
What: Tipton-Rosemark (4-6) vs. Donelson Christian (7-3) in DII-A first round
Where: Donelson Christian in Nashville
When: Today at 7 p.m.
Storylines: TRA and DCA have never played each other and have no common opponents this season … Donelson Christian has been up and down, to say the least, the previous three seasons. The Wildcats advanced to the state title game in 2017 and then went 0-10 last year … The Rebels have now made the playoffs seven straight years, but have not won a postseason game in 15 years.
What’s next: The winner travels to Davidson Academy for a state quarterfinal game.