OCTOBER 9, 2015 – CASSTOWN
Covington coach Dave Miller stood at midfield with tears streaming down his face as he accepted hugs from players and coaches after his Buccaneers came back from a 14-0 deficit to defeat Miami East 21-20 in overtime.
It was the conclusion of an emotional day for Miller and his family after losing the mother of his wife Sarah earlier in the day.
“Unreal,” said Miller. “It’s hard to find the words to describe it. I’ve been coaching for 25 years and I’ve never been more proud of a team than I am of these kids right now. I kind of think she (his mother-in-law) had a hand in it.”
How else do you explain it? After all, Covington trailed 14-0 before two fourth quarter touchdowns sent the game into overtime.
Covington received the ball first in the extra frame and scored on a 12-yards pass from Nathan Blei to Shane Straw, who tip-toed the back of the end zone after making the catch. Blei then kicked the point-after to give Covington a 21-14 lead.
Miami East followed by scoring on a one-yard plunge by quarterback Braxton Donaldson to set up the game-tying extra point attempt. But somehow, when the ball was snapped and placed on the kicking tee, the bottom of the ball slipped off the front end of the tee, forcing a low kick that was blocked by a surging Covington front.
Covington then recovered the ball to end the contest, which sent the Buccaneer team and faithful supporters into a frenzy.
“The kids persevered through some tough situations,” Miller said. “When things didn’t go our way, the kids never got down on themselves. They just moved on to to next play and played football. This was a gut check win for our kids.”
The game started out as a defensive struggle as Covington held Miami East on fourth down near midfield on the opening possession of the game.
But Covington turned the ball over on a mishandled pitch on its first offensive play to give the ball back to the Vikings just 35 yards from the end zone.
And the Vikings marched to the Covington one before the Buccaneer defense stiffened and held Miami East on fourth down at the two.
“The goal line stand in the first half was huge,” Miller said. “Our defense kept us in the game.”
With its back at its own goal line, Covington put together a methodical drive to flip the field, but was forced to punt the ball away.
The Buccaneer defense then forced a fumble and took over the ball at the Viking 30 with just under 4:00 left in the first half, but couldn’t do anything with the opportunity as the offense could only manage five yards in four plays against a stingy Viking defense.
“That’s a very good defense,” Miller praised of Miami East. “They are well coached and they made it difficult for us to get to the outside.”
The Vikings followed the outstanding effort by the defense by marching into Covington territory before calling a timeout with just under 1:00 left in the half.
Two plays later senior quarterback Braxton Donaldson lofted a 36-yard strike to Logan May, who went up over a Buccaneer defender to make the catch for the first score of the game. Colton Kowlak made true on the point-after to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead with 36 seconds left in the half.
After a nice return on the ensuing kick, Covington committed the one mistake it couldn’t afford on the very next play – a bad pitch on the option that Braxton Donaldson scooped up in stride and took 36 yards to the house for a 14-0 lead with 24 second left in the half.
“The sequence there at the end of the first half wasn’t good at all,” Miller said. “We shot ourselves in the foot and gave them points. That’s not smart football.”
After kneeling down to end the half, Covington took its opening possession in the second half deep into Viking territory once again.
And for the third time in the contest the Buccaneers put the ball on the ground, ending a potential scoring drive.
“We have to do a better job of protecting the football,” said Miller. “But a lot of teams would have packed it in at that point, down 14-0 late in the third quarter.”
Fortunately for the Covington offense, the defense came through by forcing a Viking fumble near midfield.
And the offense finally came through with a time consuming drive that extended into the fourth quarter. The drive was capped by an eight-yard touchdown run by Jared Williams to cut the margin to 14-7 with 7:14 left in the game.
After Miami East picked up a first down on the ensuing possession, Covington’s defense stepped up its game once again to force a Viking punt that was downed at the Buccaneer 28 with 3:05 left in the game.
Covington then marched into Miami East territory thanks to a 40-yard strike on a halfback option-pass from sophomore Ty Freeman to senior Coleman Ryan.
A few plays later Freeman made the play of the game as Covington faced a fourth-and-twelve with 25 second left in the game.
Once again, Covington called an option-pass and Freeman found himself caught in the backfield by two Viking defenders. But somehow, Freeman, who was looking to throw to the left, spun his way out of trouble and flipped the ball to sophomore classmate Ethan Herron in the flat. Herron then did the rest by weaving his way to the Viking one for a first down.
One play later Jared Williams capped the effort with a one-yard run to tie the score at 14-14 with 15 seconds left in the contest.
“Ty made two big plays on that drive,” said Miller. “The play to Ethan, that’s two sophomores there who came up big when we needed it.”
After Miami East took a knee to send the game into overtime, Covington received the ball at the 20.
With the Vikings clamping down on the run, Miller gambled by putting the ball in the air once again. The strategy worked as Blei found Shane Straw streaking across the back of the end zone from 12 yards out to give Covington it’s first lead of the contest.
Miami East followed with the score by Donaldson, which set up the unexplainable series of events on the point-after – a series of events resulting in an emotional win for Covington.
“I can’t explain it,” Miller said. “Our kids were just relentless – relentless effort for forty-eight minutes and then some. That’s the only way I can explain it.”
The win puts Covington into the driver’s seat in the Cross County Conference as it improves to 6-1 overall and 5-0 in the league, while Miami East drops to 5-2 overall and 5-1 in the CCC.
Next week Covington host Twin Valley South (5-2, 4-1), while Miami East travels to Tri-County North (5-2, 4-1).
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
BUCCS – 0 – 0 – 0 – 14 – 7 = 21
VIKINGS – 7 – 7 – 0 – 0 – 6 = 20
ME: Logan May 35-yd pass from Braxton Donaldson (Colton Kowlak Kick)
ME: Braxton Donaldosn 36-yd Fumble Return (Colton Kowlak Kick)
COV: Jared Williams 8-yd run (Nathan Blei Kick)
COV: Jared Williams 1-yd run (Nathan Blei Kick)
COV: Shane Straw 12-yd pass from Nathan Blei (Nathan Blei Kick)
ME: Braxton Donaldson 1-yd run (Kick Blocked)