NOVEMBER 14, 2009 – KETTERING
The Covington Buccaneers went into the regional semifinal matchup with Marion Local not looking for a moral victory.
Instead, the Buccs were looking to take it to the Flyers and come out with a victory on the scoreboard and anything less wasn’t going to be satisfying.
“These kids believed,” said Covington coach Dave Miller. “There was no intimidation factor at all. We came in here to win this game.”
And the Buccs deserved to win the game by the way they played for an entire four quarters.
Unfortunately it didn’t happen as Marion Local scored on a two-yard touchdown run by Niles Keller in the final 2:00 to steal the victory.
“We took it to those guys,” Miller said. “We played physical and took them to the wire. We have everything to be proud of, but we would have liked to come out of here with a win.”
Buccaneer fans will point to a controversial pass interference call on Marion Local’s winning touchdown drive as the difference in the outcome of the game. On the play the Flyers faced a fourth-and-23 situation at the Covington 31. The pass over the middle went through the hands of the receiver as a Buccaneer defender appeared to time the hit perfectly while playing the ball.
Marion Local received a first down inside the Buccaneer ten and scored two plays later to take a 21-17 lead.
“Right or wrong, I’ll never blame a loss on a call,” Miller said. “It’s the same as two years ago (when a Covington field goal was called no good against Lehman). You don’t leave anything to question by taking care of business throughout the game. That’s the second time it has happened to us in three years and it’s of our own doing.”
Because the Buccs did have their chances to claim victory in the second half – most notably after recovering a Marion Local fumble at the Flyer nine.
But Covington had to settle for a Ben Christian field goal after picking up just four yards on three straight plays.
“We’re not quite there yet (championship caliber),” said Miller. “We’re close, but we still have to get better.”
Unlike last week against Ansonia, Covington couldn’t have started the contest any better as Tyler Noffsinger outran the entire field on an 89-yard kickoff return for the score on the first play of the game.
Covington then forced Marion Local to punt, giving itself a golden opportunity to increase the lead with the ball at midfield.
But a three-and-out forced the Buccs to punt, which resulted in the ball being downed inside the Flyer one by Noffsinger.
Marion Local went to work by picking up a first down on a 15-yard run by Niles Keller on third-and-eight. The Flyers then connected on a long pass into Buccaneer territory as the ball bounced off one Marion Local player and into another Flyer’s hands.
Keller then broke loose from 29 yards out to tie the score at 7-7 at the end of one quarter of play.
Covington responded with a nice return by Garrett Clark to midfield and twelve plays later Isaiah Winston scooted around the left side for a one-yard scoring run. Ben Christian’s kick increased the margin to 14-7 midway through the second quarter.
“We were doing a great job of mixing things up with the triple (option),” said Miller. “We were setting up some things we thought we could take advantage of when Jake (Bitner) went down.”
Covington forced Marion to punt on the next possession and took over the ball inside its own ten.
But five plays into the drive Bitner suffered a leg injury and was forced out for the remainder of the contest.
The Buccaneer offense stalled, giving Marion Local one more shot at points before the half.
And the Flyers capitalized on a 35-yard touchdown strike from Jarren Griesdorn to Jared Prenger to tie the score at 14-14 at the half.
The second half was all defense and field position.
First, the Buccs pinned Marion Local back inside its own one and then forced the Flyers to punt from their own end zone.
The punt sailed off to the side for a net of eight yards, giving the Buccs a golden chance at the nine.
But Covington committed a false start penalty and eventually lined up for a field goal on fourth-and-four. The fake attempt fell one yard short to give the Flyers the ball back deep inside their own territory.
The Buccaneer defense, as it had done throughout most of the game, stood strong and forced a Marion Local fumble that was recovered by Darren Clark.
Moments later Christian hit on a 21-yard field goal to make the score 17-14 in the Buccaneers’ favor.
“We needed to finish there and get a touchdown when we had the ball inside their ten,” Miller said.
That’s because there was still an entire quarter left and Marion Local turned the tide in field position.
This set up the game winning drive by the Flyers as Covington punted the ball to midfield.
Thanks to two face mask penalties, the Flyers moved the ball inside the Buccaneer ten with 3:00 to go in the contest.
But a sack by Josh Boehringer and a big stop in the backfield by Jordy Meyer pushed the Flyers back to the 31 for a fourth-and-23 situation and the game in the balance.
Going for broke, Griesdorn threw over the middle into traffic and the ball went through the receiver’s hands as the Covington crowd erupted in jubilation. But a yellow flag suddenly appeared on the field, which ultimately signified pass interference on Covington – giving the Flyers first-and-goal at the nine.
Three plays later the dagger into the hearts of Covington came on the two-yard run by Keller.
“Our kids have nothing to be ashamed of,” said Miller. “Our defense played lights out tonight. All you can ask is for your kids to give you everything they’ve got for four quarters and that’s what our kids gave.”
Still, it wasn’t enough to beat Marion Local tonight – on the scoreboard at least.
“I’ve heard people say that this Marion Local team isn’t as good as they have been in the past,” Miller said. “Bull! I’ve watched film of them and they are just as good as they were in 2006 when they went all the way. They’ve went through their share of injuries as well this year, but they’ve hung in there with some darn good football teams up there (in the MAC). They beat Anna. They only lost to St. Henry 10-7 and St. Henry is in the regional final in D5. I don’t care what anyone says, that’s a very good football team Marion Local has.”
This means the Buccaneers, through all the injuries, adversity and youth on the roster, are right there with the best teams in the state.
“And we are right there with them,” Miller continued. “We can play with anybody in the state. I truly believe that and hopefully these kids do to.”
Because with the number of kids the Buccs have coming back next season, the sky is the limit.
“We can be as good as we want to be next year,” Miller explained “The kids have to have the right attitudes and be willing to come in and work even harder than they did this year.”
Which is a tall task considering how the senior class set the tone for one of the hardest working teams in Buccaneer history. But it is a task that can be done.
“This senior class will be missed,” said Miller. “They came in here and worked their butts off for this program. They grew up a lot since their junior year and have a lot to be proud of. Our seniors got this program on the right track and I want to thank them for that.”
Hopefully it leads to another shot at a great football team in the playoffs next year.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
BUCCS – 7 – 7 – 3 – 0 = 17
FLYERS – 7 – 7 – 0 – 7 = 21
Covington: Tyler Noffsinger 89 yd opening kick return (kick good)
Marion Local: Niles Keller 29 yd run (kick good)
Covington: Isaiah Winston 1 yd run (kick good)
Marion Local: Jarren Griesdorn 35 yd pass to Jared Prenger (kick good)
Covington: Ben Christian 21 yd field goal
Marion Local: Niles Keller 2 yd run (kick good)