CASSTOWN – Even after his team lost four fumbles to Miami East Friday night, Charlie Burgbacher had reason to smile.
It’s not that Covington won its seventh straight game against no defeats and fourth straight Southwestern Rivers Conference clash that pleased him the most. It was his team’s ability to hold off a charging Viking squad for a five-point win, 19-14.
The tightest game the Buccs have had this season was a 20-0 skunking of Bradford in their season opener. So before the Buccs host SRC foes Springfield Catholic Central next week and travel to Versailles for a likely shot of clinching the SRC title the following week, Burgbacher was happy his Buccs were pressured by a fiesty East club.
“We had our backs against the wall and we did it the hard way,” Burgbacher said. “You have to be happy to come in here and get the win. This is our third straight league game on the road and we’re 3-0.”
While the Buccs were clinging to the 19-14 lead with three minutes to play, East linebacker Scott Donaldson stepped in front of a Matt Pond pass and returned it to the Covington 44. However, two plays later, Pond picked off a Jim Haynes pass, which was just off the fingertips of halfback Bruce Beard.
When it looked like Covington had the game in hand, fullback Ty Owens lost the handle on the ball as East recovered at its own 48 with 1:12 remaining. After a running play lost two yards and two Mitch Hirsch passes fell incomplete, Scott Taylor picked off an underthrown pass by Hirsch, who had replaced Haynes when he injured his knee on Pond’s interception.
Covington, which has outscored its opponents 207-23 going into the game, looked like it might make quick work of East in the first half. Rich Phillis returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown, 2:30 into the game. Bill Besecker kicked the extra point to give the Buccs a 7-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Covington’s Andy Ingle fell on a Steve Garrison fumble at the Buccs’ 38-yard line. Covington’s offense drove to the East 16-yard line, but an illegal block below the waist halted the Buccs’ drive.
Covington’s first turnover vaulted East to tie the score at 7-7. With 10:49 remaining in the half, the Vikings’ Jerry Williams fell on a Covington fumble. After a 3-yard run by Beard and two incompletions, Haynes’ wobbly pass found Hawkins over the middle on a 23-yard scoring strike. Andy Monnin tied the game with the extra point.
Covington broke the tie before halftime on a scoring strike of its own. Pond, who was flushed from the pocket, hooked up with tight end Butch Boehringer on a 41-yard TD pass. Besecker’s extra point sailed off to the left as the Buccs took a 13-7 halftime lead.
Covington opened the second half with a 13-play, 80-yard drive to paydirt. Pond sneaked the ball over from 2 yards out on a fourth-and-two. The pass for the two-point conversion failed.
“We talked about making a few blocking adjustments,” Burgbacher said about the changes made at halftime. “We pointed out what was happening and what we needed them to do. There’s not a whole lot we haven’t seen after three scrimmages and seven games. We just them to block the people in front of them.”
After a Jim Stickley interception for Covington and a Cory Selsor fumble recovery for East, the Vikings capitalized on a Stickley fumble with 2:32 left in the third quarter. A face mask penalty and a pair of runs by Weaver, the final one for 2 yards and the score, put the Vikings within striking distance. Monnin’s kick cut the lead to 19-14.
East reached Covington’s 20-yard line with seven minutes remaining in the game, but a sack of Haynes on fourth-and-five ended the drive. Pond and Taylor’s interceptions stopped the other two threats late in the game.
Bob Riley, Miami East’s coach, was pleased with his team’s effort, despite having their record fall to 2-5 overall and 1-4 in the SRC.
“I thought they played their hearts out,” Riley said about his players. “We’ve always played them tough. This is a very good rivalry. Like I said is the paper earlier, if we performed the fundamentals on defense, we could stay with them. We’re 2-5, but we feel like we could be 5-2. Hopefully we can get things going. We’re not going to lay down and die. We have a tough Tipp City team, Milton-Union and Goshen, who’s only lost one, left.”
Burgbacher also credited East with a fine job.
“You have to give Miami East a lot of credit,” he said. “It was just a good, physical game. It was hard-hitting, but clean. Those are the kind of games you like to be involved in.”
Covington will return home Friday to host SCC (5-2, 3-1), while Miami East travels to Tipp City.
COV: Rich Phillis 40-yd punt return (Bill Besecker Kick)
ME: Todd Hawkins 23-yd pass from Jim Haynes (Andy Monnin Kick)
COV: Butch Boehringer 41-yd pass from Matt Pond (Kick Failed)
COV: Matt Pond 2-yd run (Pass Failed)
ME: Todd Hawkins 3-yd run (Monnin Kick)
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
Covington: 7 6 6 0 = 19
Miami East: 0 7 7 0 = 14