COVINGTON — Only a week after a tough loss home loss to Bethel, Twin Valley South surprised the Cross County Conference world with a 34-30 upset on the road over Covington on Friday, Oct. 16.
The win also creates some convolution at the top of the conference, forcing a three-way tie between Covington, South, and Miami East. It is a chaos that South is happy to see.
“What a game to be a part of,” said head coach Tyler Cates. “Many people counted us out. We could have packed it in and gave up (after the Bethel loss) but instead this team, led by its seniors, stepped up big and said ‘We can do this fellas, we can still go to the playoffs and have a chance at tying for the CCC championship.’”
The game was back and forth the entire contest, culminating in last second heroics from quarterback Jacob Bassler and wideout J.J. Utz, who hooked up on a pass and catch from eight yards out with eight seconds remaining.
The touchdown gave the Panthers a 34-30 lead and new life in both the conference and playoff races.
“The resiliency and handling adversity was amazing to be a part of. Covington is such a great program and very well coached. Their kids and staff have so much class and the kids play their tails off,” said Cates. “Our kids played with everything they had for 48 minutes, had few mental mistakes, trusted in each other, and never gave up. As a coach there’s nothing else you can ask for. I can’t say enough how proud I am of our whole team and especially our seniors who kept leading through adverse times.”
Covington was able to strike first though, punching in a four yard run in the first quarter. They converted a two-point conversion to put them up 8-0 early.
South answered with a one-yard run from Bassler after Covington fumbled the ball in South territory. The successful PAT pulled the Panthers within one before the Buccs answered on a 14-yard touchdown, pushing their lead to 15-7 with three minutes in the half.
The Panthers pulled off some trickery though, when Mike Meyers connected with Utz for a 39-yard touchdown, pulling South within one to end the half.
On the ensuing drive of the second half, Utz picked off Covington’s first pass of the game. South capitalized on the turnover when Bassler connected with Utz once again from 22 yards out, giving the Panthers a 21-15 lead.
Covington responded with a time consuming drive, reclaiming the lead after a one-yard touchdown gave them a 23-21 advantage.
Basser to Utz ruled the day though, as the two connected again, this time with Utz doing the heavy lifting on a short pass that went for a 54 yard touchdown. Their two point conversion attempt failed though, and South led 27-23.
With eight minutes remaining, Covington put together a drive that lasted five minutes and thirty seconds, takin a 30-27 lead with 2:33 remaining.
It was eight seconds too much to leave on the clock.
The Panthers converted two fourth downs – both throws to Utz – to put together the exciting finish for the Panther faithful that made the trip. It, of course, ended when Utz caught his fourth touchdown of the game with eight ticks left on the clock.
They squibbed a kick on the ensuing kickoff, recovering the ball. Bassler took a knee to end the game.
“It was a huge win for our school, program, players, community, and staff,” said Cates.
Utz finished the game with 10 catches for 150 yards and four touchdowns.
South will host Tri-County North on Friday, Oct. 23 and 7:30 before closing out the season against Miami East.
Reach Jeremy at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH.