On a day when running back Justin Covington and the Cardinal Hayes offense shined throughout the game, the defense needed to finish the job.
The unit ended Monsignor Farrell’s comeback attempt when Lucas Nunez intercepted a Hail Mary pass with 13 seconds to play at the Hayes 15-yard line. It secured a 20-14 Cardinals win over the Lions in CHSFL play last Saturday afternoon at The Rooftop.
“Any win is a good win,” Hayes head coach CJ O’Neil said. “We would have liked to play a lot better, a lot cleaner. Sometimes emotion gets the best of us like it did today. We were in a tough fight with a very good football team. We pulled it out in the end.”
The guy who put his team in position to win was running back Justin Covington. In the opening minute of the game, he caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Christian Anderson.
It was the start of a three-touchdown game for the senior who rushed for 172 yards on 10 carries. Covington scored again early in the second quarter as he ran 82 yards to the end zone to give Hayes 14-0 lead.
“It was good blocking by the offensive line,” Covington said. “Once I got the ball, they let me take off.”
Two Cardinal turnovers allowed Farrell to hang around in the game. The teams also exchanged interceptions and turnovers throughout. Another issue for the Cardinals was penalties. O’Neill said the team needs to stay focused no matter what happens.
“Our problem is sometimes we have to compete with ourselves,” he said. “When we compete with ourselves, that’s sometimes our hardest opponent. Hopefully we grow and get better from this.”
On their first possession of the second half, Farrell quarterback Michael Cloppse notched a 2-yard run into the end zone to make it 14-7. Hayes (2-0, 1-0) responded about a minute later with Covington scoring his third touchdown of the game on a 70-yard run to make it 20-7 with 7:13 to go in the third.
Farrell (1-1, 0-1) kept coming. A wide-open Joe Schmidt caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Cloppse to bring Farrell within 20-14 with 8:12 remained in the game. The Hayes defense responded by creating three turnovers in the final 3:00.
“Defense played great,” Covington said. “They shut them down to 14 points. They gave us the ball back and let us score. They played great.”
Defensive lineman Terrell Alexander got in the middle of a pass from Cloppse and intercepted it with 3:12 left in the game and defensive back Shameen Jones caught another critical turnover in the game before Nunez’s pick to seal it.
“Hands down, those guys made some exceptional individual efforts,” O’Neill said. “That saved us more than anything.”