October 30, 2009 – COVINGTON
As the six seniors on the Covington football team stood on an empty Smith Field Friday night the tears were flowing down their faces as they expected the season to be over in spite of a 28-6 victory over Mississinawa Valley.
That’s because Marion Local knocked off Anna 28-21, the one result Covington felt would prevent a 10th playoff birth in eleven years for the Buccs.
But new life was breathed into Covington’s season as Cincinnati Country Day lost and the teams it beat throughout the season lost, allowing the Buccs to overtake them for the eighth spot in Regions 24.
“I felt so bad for our seniors after the game,” said Covington coach Dave Miller. “They worked so darn hard and the looks on their faces really got to me. But hey, now we have a new life.”
That new life begins with a rematch against the top seed and unbeaten Ansonia Tigers, who defeated Covington 35-7 two weeks ago on the Buccs’ home field.
In that game Covington collapsed in the second half, surrendering 21 points after being down just 14-7 at the half.
“We get a second chance,” Miller said. “We didn’t play well and they did (in the first meeting). It will be a battle, but we’re thrilled to get another shot at them.”
The gift from the Football Gods was a fitting way to cap a memorable evening for the Buccaneers, especially the senior class. They got to walk off the the home field for the final time as winners.
“They (the seniors) are a neat group of kids,” Miller praised. “I look back at the end of last season and how they took charge from day one. They’ve all matured and grown as leaders and that’s what makes this job (coaching) so much fun. To see those kids grow into men is really gratifying.”
And the seniors were recognized for their hard work, commitment and leadership as the rest of the team formed a tunnel for the six seniors prior to the game. Plus, the group received applause with their parents as they were introduced to the Covington faithful.
But the most memorable honor was given to one senior in particular as Adam Craft dressed along with the other five seniors for the final home game.
“It’s a shame Adam couldn’t play this year,” said Miller of Craft, whose career ended prematurely due to an injury suffered his junior year. “He’s a darn good football player, probably an all-state type of player, who we miss greatly. But to have him dress for this game was fitting. It meant a lot to the kids.”
Another senior who was on the field in uniform for the first time this year was Taylor Reames. And he contributed with outstanding defensive play and a critical 20-yard catch to keep a drive alive.
“I was really happy for Taylor,” said Miller of Reames, who was not eligible to play the first nine games. “He knew going in (to the season) that he wouldn’t be able to play until the last game of the season, but he was with us from day one. That shows the type of character that kid has.”
And all the work was well worth it for Reames.
“We asked him after the game if it was worth it just for this game and he said yes,” Miller continued. “He would have done it for just one play, that’s how much it meant to him. And the younger kids got to see that.”
The start to the game wasn’t what Covington was looking for as Tyler Noffsinger’s opening kickoff return for the score was called back due to a penalty.
After another big play on the first offensive snap was called back due to another penalty, the Buccs collected themselves and put together an impressive drive.
The result was a perfectly executed 23-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Isaiah Winston to Garrett Clark.
“That was big that we scored on the opening drive, especially after we had the two penalties to start the game,” Miller said. “We’ve been stressing to put bad plays behind us and move forward and we did that tonight.”
After stopping Mississinawa on its first drive the Buccs went to a familiar number at quarterback for their second drive of the game. Jake Bitner (number 11) returned from an injury suffered in week three against Bradford to get in some reps under center.
“It was nice to get Jake in to give him some reps,” Miller explained. “We didn’t score there, but we did move the ball. I liked what I saw from him and another week of practice will only make him better.”
Covington had a defensive breakdown after turning the ball over on downs as Trent Hietkamp connected with Bryce Hile on an 86-yard hookup to cut the margin to 7-6 as the point-after attempt was blocked by Jordy Meyer.
That one play accounted for all but 30 yards of Mississinawa Valley’s offense as the Buccs held the Black Hawks to 116 total yards in the contest.
“Other than that one play, our defense was outstanding,” said Miller. “Our guys up front really got after it. Josh (Boehringer) Teddy (Hale), Jordy (Meyer) and Ben (Christian) were dominating the line of scrimmage.”
While the Buccaneer defense shut down the Mississinawa offense, the Buccaneer ground game picked up chunks of yardage on long, time consuming drives. Covington controlled the clock with 69 plays to just 36 for Mississinawa and the result was three more touchdowns.
First, Isaiah Winston capped an impressive drive with a five-yard run early in the second quarter and Garrett Clark ran his season total to 25 touchdowns with a 15-yard run to make the score 21-6 at the break.
Covington closed the show with a six-yard run by Tyler Noffsinger to make the final score 28-6.
But it was the two touchdowns that were left on the field that Miller feels his team needs to take advantage of come playoff time.
“We had a dropped pass wide open in the end zone and a fumble inside their ten,” said Miller. “Those are situations we can’t have next week.”
Still, after an injury riddled regular season the Buccs are finally getting healthy at the right time.
“It’s good we are getting some guys back, and it couldn’t come at a better time,” Miller said. “Having Jake (Bitner) back, Taylor (Reames) back, Corey (Haines) may be back, that’s just going to help us. It will give us so many more weapons.’
Weapons to go along with what Covington has already had in two running backs that have put up 1325 and 1127 rushing yards this season – Garrett Clark and Tyler Noffsinger.
“That’s a testament to our entire offense,” Miller stated. “Garrett and Tyler have both run hard all year and our offensive line has done a heck of a job controlling the line of scrimmage. And, our quarterback, what can I say about him? Isaiah has run the offense better and better with each game.”
It has led to a 7-3 record, but more importantly a playoff birth for the Buccs.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
BUCCS – 7 – 14 – 0 – 7 = 28
‘HAWKS – 6 – 0 – 0 – 0 = 6
1st – COV: Garrett Clark 23yd pass from Isaiah Winston (Ben Christian Kick)
1st – MV: Bryce Hile 86yd pass from Trent Heitkamp (Kick Blocked)
2nd – COV: Isaiah Winston 5yd run (Christian Kick)
2nd – COV: Garrett Clark 15yd run (Christian Kick)
4th – COV: Tyler Noffsinger 6yd run (Christian Kick)