By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — Covington coach Dave Miller spelled it out earlier in the week when explaining what his team needed to accomplish in the opening round of the state football playoffs against Lehman.
“We have to control the clock and maximize our possessions,” Miller said earlier in the week. “We can’t turn the ball over and beat ourselves.”
Unfortunately, Covington wasn’t able to accomplish those objectives as it fumbled at the one and failed on two fourth down attempts deep in Lehman territory — failed opportunities that ultimately cost the Buccaneers in a 20-16 defeat Friday in the opening round of the Division VII, Region 26 playoffs.
The Buccaneers were on script in the opening possession of the game as they marched 71 yards in 15 plays and capped the effort with a five-yard run by Ethan Herron.
The extra point attempt was blocked, however, leaving the score at 6-0 in favor of Covington.
Defensively, Miller stressed the importance of containing Lehman quarterback Stephan Monnin in his pre-game strategy.
“We can’t let their quarterback extend plays because he’ll beat you,” Miller said. “We have to keep him boxed in and maintain coverage down the field.”
Overall, the Buccaneer defense was able to prevent Monnin from torching them through the air as the Cavalier signal caller only managed to complete one of 11 passes on the night.
But that one pass was a big one as it went for thirty yards on a third-and-nine situation on Lehman’s opening drive. This set up a six-yard run by Monnin to give Lehman a 7-6 lead after Ian Smith made true on the extra point to close out the first quarter.
In a game where possessions were limited, the Buccaneers were able to march deep into Lehman territory on the ensuing possession, but failed to convert on a fourth-and-two.
After forcing Lehman to a three-and-out, the Buccaneers took over at midfield and marched to the Cavalier 16 before once again failing to convert on fourth and short – turning the ball over at the 20.
Two plays later, Covington’s Ben Kuether put pressure on the Lehman quarterback to force a poor throw that Coleman Ryan picked off at midfield.
Covington then drove 50 yards in nine plays and took a 13-6 lead on a two-yard Herron run with 40 seconds left in the half.
After two short pass attempts fell incomplete, Lehman moved the ball near midfield on two straight runs and then attempted a long pass down the left sideline that was knocked down by Covington’s Branden Robinson to end the half.
Covington kicked to Lehman to start the second half and the Cavaliers returned the ball to their own 33.
Realizing its struggles in converting in the passing game in the first half, Lehman went to the ground in the second half and shocked the Buccs by driving 67 yards in four plays – all on the ground.
The drive was capped by a 29-yard run by Owen Smith to give the Cavaliers a 14-13 lead with just 1:08 off the clock.
After a short kick by Lehman gave the Buccs the ball back at their own 42, Covington used eight plays to moved the ball to the Cavalier two. But on second down, Covington fumbled and Lehman recovered to end yet another Buccaneer scoring threat.
The Covington defense then did its job by forcing a three-and-out and took over the ball at the Cavalier 30 after a short punt.
The Buccs then moved the ball inside the Lehman five, but a motion penalty stalled the drive and Covington had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Nathan Blei as the third quarter came to a close.
On the ensuing possession, Covington’s Deron White forced a Lehman fumble and Coleman Ryan recovered to give the Buccs the ball at the Cavalier 38.
But Covington was only able to move the ball five yards on three plays and was forced to punt for the only time in the contest, giving the ball back to Lehman at the Cavalier 10.
Lehman then went 90 yards on 12 plays to reclaim a 20-16 lead on a two-yard run by Jake Earhart.
With 6:03 left on the clock, Covington took over at its own 38 and marched into Cavalier territory and faced fourth-and-two from the 32.
With the Lehman defense close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run, Covington attempted to go to the air only to have the pass knocked away by a Cavalier defender.
From there Lehman took a knee as the Buccaneers watched the clock tick away on their season.
In the end, it was a case of missed opportunities that prevented Covington from advancing in the state playoffs.