Stay Alive: Covenant edges North Cross in potentially must-win thriller

Covenant’s football team knew the stakes going into the Eagles’ clash with North Cross Saturday.


Win and they’re likely in the VISAA playoffs. Lose and things get precarious quickly.


The Eagles made sure they didn’t, edging North Cross 51-48 on the road in a thriller, holding on thanks to three pick sixes, the third by Chris Newton with 2:45 to play. The Covenant defense then held from there.


Covenant was tied with the Raiders at the break with touchdowns from Jonas Sanker on a 55-yard reverse and the first of the pick sixes when David Szatkowski scored. The second half started out rocky as North Cross reeled off 20 straight points and appeared set to pull away up 34-14 midway through the third quarter. But Covenant got going with a touchdown and then seconds later, Szatkowski struck again with a second pick six and a two-point conversion that followed it and Covenant was down just 34-30.


Covenant senior John Huemme then forced a fumble and Nic Sanker races in for a touchdown and a 37-34 lead. That ended a third quarter with 57 combined points between the two squads. The teams traded touchdowns again in the fourth, with Huemme scoring off the option to answer a quick North Cross touchdown before North Cross ran the ensuing kick back.


Then with 2:45 to play, Newton made the game-winning play, putting Covenant up 51-48.


Covenant (7-1) still has to play Randolph Macon next week, and even a win there won’t make a playoff berth official because the VISAA now holds a panel vote to finalize the four teams in the playoffs, but with wins over Christchurch and North Cross, two of the other teams in Division II’s top six, the panel would be hard-pressed to keep Covenant out.