The first playoff game in the history of the Worthington Christian football team takes place Friday, Nov. 8, and will feature a 100-mile one-way trip to face a program with an extensive postseason history.
Covington, which earned the fourth seed in Division VI, Region 24, has made 22 playoff appearances, beginning in 1979. Since 1999, the Buccs have made the playoffs in all but two seasons, although they haven't reached the second round since 2012.
Covington, which lost in the first round of the Region 24 playoffs last season, is 8-2 and has won six games in a row.
The Warriors weren't a lock to make the playoffs heading into Week 10 but beat KIPP Columbus 53-14 on Nov. 1 for their fifth consecutive win and secured the No. 5 seed at 8-2.
The first-round winner plays top-seeded Chillicothe Southeastern or eighth-seeded Dayton Christian in a regional semifinal Nov. 15 at a neutral site.
"I know the last few weeks (Covington) has done very well and I know a couple of the opponents they've played and competed against," coach Jeff Hartings said. "They played Fort Loramie close (in a 19-14 loss Sept. 20) and they beat St. Henry, my alma mater, (35-6 on Aug. 30) and St. Henry is usually a playoff team. We're very excited about winning our league and making the playoffs for the first time."
Against KIPP Columbus, quarterback Lucas Hartings completed eight of 15 passes for 173 yards and four touchdowns, Braden Anderson rushed 10 times for 108 yards and two scores and Jake Thompson, D.J. Moore, Jaiden Reynolds and Anderson each had one touchdown catch.
Caleb Harper, a two-way starting lineman, led the defense with 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
"I feel like our offensive line has a good synergy about it and is a close-knit unit," Harper said. "The offense has been pretty good and the defense works together."
Both of Covington's losses came against teams that made the playoffs in Minster (Division VI, Region 23) and Fort Loramie (Division VII, Region 28), but the Buccs beat three teams with winning records.
Worthington Christian has a nearly 50-50 pass-to-run ratio, with Hartings completing 128 of 221 passes for 2,164 yards with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and Anderson rushing for 677 yards and nine touchdowns to lead a running attack that has 237 carries on the season. D.J. Moore has 47 receptions for 1,017 yards with 11 touchdowns.
Covington has run the ball nearly 100 more times than it has passed, but has been effective in both areas.
Senior quarterback Cade Schmelzer is 98-for-158 passing for 1,821 yards with 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions and senior Andrew Cates has 39 receptions for 799 yards and 12 touchdowns, while junior Trentin Alexander has 569 yards and two touchdowns on 53 carries and senior Brayden Wiggins has 65 carries for 498 yards and six scores.
Defensively for the Buccs, senior linebacker Duncan Cooper (98 tackles), junior linebacker Gavin Swank (81 tackles), Alexander (73 tackles) and senior cornerback Kleyton Maschino (5 interceptions) are among the biggest playmakers.
"I'm very satisfied with how our team approaches each week," coach Hartings said. "They understand what I'm communicating. We're going to enjoy (making the playoffs) and celebrate and then you let your emotions settle."