SEPTEMBER 4, 2020 – CASSTOWN
In most years since 2006, when Miami East joined the Cross County Conference, the road to the league title has went through either Casstown or Covington.
After all, in those 14 years, Covington or Miami East has won the league title in all but four seasons. In that timeframe, there has been several classic games between the men in black (Covington) and those in blue (Miami East) – making for a great rivalry between two well respected programs.
And Friday’s matchup between the Buccaneers and Vikings appeared to be one of those classic battles until Covington was able to pull away in the second half for a 43-14 win thanks to punishing ground game that churned out 316 yards on the night.
“I’m very proud of our offensive line tonight,” praised Covington coach Tyler Cates. “We’re young and we grew up a lot tonight. We gained a lot of confidence.”
Covington was able to strike first as senior Gavin Swank capped a 12-play drive with a 30-yard scoring run into the heart of the Vikings defense. The point-after attempt was off the mark, but the Buccs held a 6-0 lead with 7:16 left in the opening frame.
After the Covington defense forced Miami East to punt on the ensuing possession, the Viking defense made a huge play as Brad Wittenmyer stripped the ball away from a Buccaneer runner to give the Vikings excellent field position.
A few plays later Austin Francis found an opening through the middle of the Buccaneer defense and raced 37 yards for the score and a 7-6 Viking lead after Tyler Kirby made true on the points after.
The score remained 7-6 into the second quarter until Covington’s Trentin Alexander tallied 53 of his 107 rushing yards on a single play to give Covington a 13-7 lead with 8:53 left in the half.
Covington would strike again before the half as Jensen Wagoner found Jakob Hamilton open behind the Viking defense for 30 yards to the one. After a penalty, Gavin Swank then finished off the drive with a five-yard dive to push Covington’s lead to 20-7 at the break.
“I think that was a game changer,” said Cates in regards to the big pass play to set the Buccs up at the one. “In high school football that momentum is a roller coaster. You’re feeling that big high going into halftime because of that play. I think that was huge.”
And it was an instance where Covington took advantage of some inexperience on the Viking defense.
“I’m not big on making excuses … but that corner (on the catch before halftime), he’s never played football until this year,” said Miami East coach Max Current. “You take that away and the fumble, that would have helped and maybe things wouldn’t have gotten out of hand that quick in the third quarter.”
It was huge play as Covington carried the momentum into the second half. Duncan Cooper capped yet another impressive drive with a one-yard plunge to push the lead to 27-7.
But Miami East is very well coached and has a proud tradition of playing four quarters of physical football.
This was proven true as Francis put the Vikings right back into the game with a 53-yard scoring jaunt to cut the margin to 27-14 with 4:02 left in the third.
“He’s a great player,” said Cates of Francis, who torched Covington for 140 yards on 13 carries. “We knew we were going to have a tough time defending him. Hats off to that kid. He had some great individual efforts. But overall … bend but don’t break. I’m proud of our offense.”
Covington has offensive weapons with breakaway capabilities as well, which senior Duncan Cooper showcased on the ensuing Buccaneer possession on an 89-yard scoring jaunt to turn the momentum and push the lead to 33-14.
“That’s something I’ve been blessed with at Covington,” said Cates in regards to having offensive weapons. “We’ve had a lot of weapons across the board. We just try to take what the defense gives us. Whatever they’re lined up in we want to exploit that with angles in our running game. Or how they’re defending us in the secondary, we have routes for different things. Whatever is working we’re going to that. It’s nice when you have five, six guys or more you can get the football to.”
With a three possession lead, the Buccaneer defense pinned their ears back and went after Miami East.
It resulted into a Viking punt midway through the fourth quarter that Trentin Alexander returned 70 yards for the score and a 40-14 Covington lead.
The Buccaneers then closed out the contest with a 39-yard field goal by senior David Robinson.
“What a great kick,” said Cates. “That might be the longest field goal I’ve had from a kid. He’s worked so hard on the kicking. He’s put in so much work and it pays off with a big kick. … I told him you’re going to win us a big game.”
At the end the scoreboard read 43-14, but the game seemed closer than what the final numbers showed on the board.
And that’s because of the effort a young Viking team gave from start to finish.
“My guys gave great effort,” said Current. “They’ve been giving great effort all summer. I’ve been pleased with that. We’re inexperienced at some skill positions. We have some new offensive linemen in there. Just a couple plays here and there.”
Plays that were hard to come by against the Buccaneer defense.
“They’re a great pressure team,” praised Current of Covington’s defense. “That was a concern I had coming in, whether we could withstand their pressure. We just have to learn from it. Hopefully the guys learn a few tricks and down the road when we get pressured again, hopefully they’ll appreciate this experience.”
For Covington, a big win over Miami East is hopefully a springboard to bigger and better things.
“We’re going to try and win one week at a time,” said Cates.
Next up for the Buccaneers, who are now 2-0, is a long road trip to Twin Valley South next Friday.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
BUCCS – 6 – 14 – 13 – 10 = 43
VIKINGS – 7 – 0 – 7 – 0 = 14
1st – COV: Gavin Swank 30-yd run (Kick Failed)
1st – ME: Austin Francis 37-yd run (Tyler Kirby Kick)
2nd – COV: Trentin Alexander 53-yd run (David Robinson Kick)
2nd – COV: Gavin Swank 5-yd run (David Robinson Kick)
3rd – COV: Duncan Cooper 1-yd run (David Robinson Kick)
3rd – ME: Austin Francis 53-yd run (Tyler Kirby Kick)
3rd – COV: Duncan Cooper 89-yd run (PAT Blocked)
4th – COV: Trentin Alexander 70-y punt return (David Robinson Kick)
4th – COV: David Robinson 39-yd Field Goal