Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email email@example.com.
Schedule changes after the season had been set and the Covington Chargers and the Bauxite (Ark.) Miners were searching for an opponent on Aug. 30.
After the teams found each other earlier this year the Miners made the three-plus hour trip from south of Little Rock to play a penalty-filled game that lasted almost as long as the drive before finally falling to the Chargers, 37-12.
The first 16 minutes of the game provided more "teachable moments," as Covington Head coach J.R. Kirby called them, than he and his staff wanted to see.
Covington (2-0) muffed the opening kickoff, giving the ball to the visitors at the Charger 23-yard line. The Miners reached the nine but lost five yards on first and goal. CHS dodged the first bullet when a 30-yard field goal attempt went wide left.
The Chargers' second possession went from bad to worse. A fumbled snap on second and five from the Covington 15 lost five yards. Carson Ruffin's third down pass was picked off at the 45 and returned to the one, from where the Miners took a 6-0 lead on the next play with 4:44 left in the first period.
Another fumble with a 10-yard loss derailed the next Charger possession. The fourth time with the ball the Miners corralled another Charger fumble at the CHS 16. The defense reared its head again, holding Bauxite to a 29-yard field goal and a 9-0 lead at 9:07 of the second period.
As suddenly as the miscues appeared they disappeared.
The defense stepped up in a big way and the offense started clicking. Freshman Jamarion Dowell returned the ensuing kick off to the Covington 48. Seven plays later, Andrew Scott bulled his way into the endzone from 27 yards out to cut the deficit to 9-7.
Just 32 seconds later, the Chargers took the lead for good. Kirby went for the throat after the recovery of a fumble at the Miner 44. On the first play from scrimmage, Ruffin hit a streaking, wide open Jaylen Fayne in stride for a 13-7 lead at the 6:52 mark.
With 2:11 left in the half, Covington drove from their 27 to the Miner four. A false start penalty on second and goal from the three prevented a touchdown, but freshman placekicker Roby Myers, who was 2 of 4 on PATs , nailed a 29-yard field goal for a 16-9 halftime lead.
"I am proud of the way the team bounced back after that start," Kirby said post game. "We have a lot to work on. Still we found a way to win. Bauxite is a good football team, tough and hard-nosed. Our defense stepped up and stopped them after we had spotted them nine points off our mistakes."
Bauxite (0-1), aided by a 15-yard Charger penalty, cut the margin to 16-12 after driving the second half kickoff to the CHS 11 before having to settle for a 28-yard field goal. Jamarion Dowell capped off a nine-play, 68-yard drive with a seven-yard run and a two-point conversion. It was his first varsity touchdown and increased the lead to 24-12.
A partially-blocked Miner punt midway through the fourth period led to Scott's second TD of the night, a bruising 16-yard run.
Up 30-12, the Charger defense got a score late in the period when senior transfer Tory Bradley Jr. picked off a Miner pass at their 48 and wove his way across the field, breaking several tackles along the way to find pay dirt.
To say that the Charger defense was dominant would be an understatement. The Miners, who were essentially gifted nine points by the Charger offense, finished the night with just 90 yards of total offense.
Once untracked, the Covington offense put up acceptable numbers.
In his second start at quarterback, Ruffin completed 1 of 3 passing attempts for a TD with an interception. The stable of Charger running backs more than took care of business, amassing 268 yards on 38 carries. Fayne tallied 82 yards on nine rushes. Dowell scored a TD and picked up 73 yards on 10 carries. Scott scored twice, gaining 53 yards on five carries and EuMarrion Flowers rushed six times for 42 yards.
"Once we got past that first 16 minutes, the ground game averaged almost 10 yards a carry," said Kirby.
Covington hits the road to Bolivar to take on the Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday in the opening game of the Region 15-AA schedule.