COVINGTON – Tri-County North found itself in an old-fashioned thriller during a match-up with Cross County Conference powerhouse Covington on Friday, Oct. 2.
Unfortunately for the Panther faithful, who braved the rain and strong winds, they were left empty-handed after the Buccs scored the go-ahead touchdown off a halfback pass with 26 seconds remaining, giving Covington a 28-21 victory.
“We practiced against that all week. We called a timeout and said that was probably what was coming and we just didn’t execute it. I’m going to own this one. I don’t think I called a very good game tonight to be honest with you,” said TCN head coach Bill Derringer.
North struck first early in the game, capping off a three minute drive off an 11-yard quarterback keeper from Lane Gunder. The PAT was good and the Panthers had the upper-hand, leading 7-0.
Covington answered quickly though, pounding the right side on a run-heavy attack and punching the ball in from one yard out with 4:45 left in the quarter to tie the game at 7-all.
After North stalled on their next drive, the Buccs found the endzone once more, this time on a big 61-yard run with just over a minute left in the first quarter, giving them a 14-7 advantage.
The Panthers answered that score though, finding pay dirt just two minutes into the second when Gunder found Gavin Overholtz behind the Buccs defense for a 26-yard touchdown strike to even the score.
The game remained stagnant for the rest of the half, and North’s defense held steady when Covington threatened a late score deep in Panther territory at the end of the half.
Covington scored early in the second half though, punching in another one yard touchdown with 8:32 left in the third, giving the home team the 21-14 advantage.
North looked like they were going to even the score after Colton Scott recovered a Covington fumble on their 31-yard line late in the third quarter. The Panthers scored on the drive, but it was called back on a holding penalty and they were forced to attempt a field goal. The kick was blocked though, and Covington took over on downs.
“Offensively, I thought we could have done a lot more things and I made some bad calls. I’m going to own it,” said Derringer.
The Panther defense held tough though and the offense got the ball back with around six minutes left and down a score.
This resulted in a nine play, 66 yard drive that resulted in a one yard plunge from Garrett Woodyard with 3:57 remaining to tie the game at 21-21.
The score left just enough time for Covington to go on one final drive. The Buccs were had the ball deep on North’s 24-yard line, when the pounded the right side of the line again, before their halfback popped up and found a wide open receiver in the front right corner of the endzone for the go-ahead score with 26 seconds left.
“It’s hard to walk off the field when you think you may have been the better team. This is a tough one. This is a tough loss for us,” said Derringer. “I think we are a pretty good football team. It could have gone either way. If the ball bounces our way once or twice – I’m not taking anything away from Covington, they’re a heck of a football team and they played a great ball game tonight – I just feel like we could have played a little bit better and we could’ve come home with the victory tonight.”
Gunder finished the night going 5-13 for 79 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He also rushed seven times for 80 yards and two scores. Logan Elmore added six rushes for 64 yards while Garrett Woodyard had 11 carries for 53 yards.
Overholtz had one reception for 26 yards and a touchdown while Scott hauled in another reception for 22 yards.
North falls to 4-2 (3-1 CCC) on the year and will host Troy Christian on Friday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Jeremy Erskine may be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH
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