BRADFORD – There was a time when fans stood three to four deep around the entire field when Covington and Bradford played each other on the gridiron. Yes, the rivalry was huge for both communities where bragging rights went to the winner until the two programs took to the field a year later.
Unfortunately, over the past decade or so the rivalry has diminished to some extent and the past four years it disappeared as the two neighboring programs hadn’t played each other since 2018.
Friday night, however, the rivalry was renewed as the Buccaneers traveled to Bradford in a non-conference battle that was very reminiscent of the good old days. Fans from both communities poured into the facility, which made for a great environment for the players to experience.
And the game lived up to the traditions established from the rivalry that dates back to 1947 as both teams left everything they had on the field in what was an exciting game from start to finish. In the end it was Covington who came out on top by the score of 24-6, but both teams were winners on this night.
“This was a fun night,” said Covington coach Austin Morgan. “The environment was great and the kids took to it. It was awesome.”
Covington received the opening kickoff and advanced the ball to its own 22. On the first play from scrimmage freshman Day’Lynn Garett broke free around right end and raced 53 yards to the Railroader 25. On the next play senior DeAnthony Bennett ran around the left side from 25 yards out, but a holding penalty negated the score.
Another penalty set the Buccaneers back even further and Bradford would eventually take over the ball at its own 16 after stopping Covington on fourth down.
After making a stop on defense, Covington went back to work and scored on a one-yard plunge by Bennett. The point-after attempt was blocked by Bradford after a poor snap by Covington, which left the score at 6-0 in favor of the Buccaneers.
Over the course of the next two quarters, the Buccaneers had two more scores by Day’Lynn negated by penalties – both coming on clipping penalties. One was on an interception where Garett returned the ball 85 yards to the end zone and the other was on a punt return.
“I feel bad for Day’Lynn,” Morgan said. “He made some big plays and to have three of them called back is unfortunate.”
Covington committed nine penalties for 160 yards in the contest, but the yards lost from the penalties were much more.
“A lot of the penalties were effort penalties,’ Morgan said. “The clipping penalties hurt us, but those were because the kids were flying around to try and get a block. Those are things we can correct through coaching and experience.”
Bradford showed grit throughout the contest and was within striking distance of taking the lead as it had the ball inside the Buccaneer 20 to start the fourth quarter.
But Covington came up with a huge defensive play as DeAnthony Bennett scooped up a Bradford fumble and raced 85 yards for the score to push the Buccaneer lead to 12-0 as the two-point conversion pass attempt was dropped in the end zone.
Bradford turned the ball over via fumble on its next possession as Covington sophomore Zeb Woodward-Roeth pounced on the loose ball inside Railroader territory.
DeAnthony Bennett then scored on a 17-yard run to give Covington an 18-0 cushion with 8:55 left in the game.
Bradford responded with a 19-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Colton Gambill to senior Ben Kitts to cut the deficit to 18-6 with 4:55 left in the game.
The Buccaneer defense then closed the show as Garrett Leistner picked off his second pass of the game and raced 35 yards for the score to cap a 24-6 win.
“Our defense played outstanding tonight,” praised Morgan.
Two players who took their games to another level for Covington were freshman Mason Epperson and sophomore Jack Blumenstock. Both had huge games on the defensive side of the ball.
“Mason Epperson and Jack-Jack were the players of the game as far as I’m concerned,” Morgan said. “Those two kids played awesome tonight.”
The Buccaneers played well on the offensive side of the ball as they racked up 225 yards of offense, but untimely penalties cost the Buccaneers over 100 yards of additional yardage and possibly four more scoring opportunities.
“We did some nice things on offense, but penalties cost us some big plays and put us behind the chains way too often,” Morgan said.
Sophomore quarterback Kian French saw his first action of his high school career after overcoming unfortunate injuries and he lit a spark on the Buccaneer offense with some great passes and his ability to run the ball away from pressure.
“Kian played extremely well,” praised Morgan. “He missed a lot of time last year as a freshman and suffered an injury in a scrimmage, but having him back is huge for us. His presence at quarterback not only allows us to utilize his talents, but it allows us to put DeAnthony (Bennett) in a position where he can utilize his talents.”
For Bradford, the final score wasn’t what the Railroaders were hoping for, but those kids showed the heart and determination of a program that is headed in the right direction. Even with the final score, Bradford can consider themselves as winners because of the fight they gave for four quarters.
And with the way both teams played, hopefully this game is the springboard to bringing the Covington – Bradford rivalry back to life.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
Covington – 6 – 0 – 0 – 18 = 24
Bradford – 0 – 0 – 0 – 6 = 6
COV: DeAnthony Bennett 1-yd run (Kick Blocked)
COV: DeAnthony Bennett 85-yard fumble return (Kick Failed)
COV: DeAnthony Bennett 17-yard run (Pass Failed)
BRA: Ben Kitts 19-yard pass from Colton Gambill (Pass Failed)
COV: Garrett Leistner 35-yard interception return (Kick Failed)