• Post category:2021 SEASON
Cam Kirker runs the ball on his way to a career high 102 rushing yards in the final game of his high school career.

Friday was the 60th meeting in the long standing rivalry between the Covington Buccaneers and Miami East Vikings dating back to 1959.

And like many of the battles in years past, the game was physical from start to finish as both teams brought out the best in the other.

Unfortunately for Covington, the difference between winning and losing came down two factors – turnovers and the inability to shut down Viking senior running back, Austin Francis.

In all, Covington turned the ball over seven times – five via fumble and twice on interceptions – and Austin Francis rushed for 279 yards on 33 carries and scored three times, accounting for all but 26 yards of the 305 total yards accumulated by the Viking offense.

“You can’t win a game when you have seven turnovers,” said Covington coach Austin Morgan. “I don’t know how many they (Miami East) had, but I know we had a lot.”

Covington started the game on fire as it marched its opening possession methodically down the field and capped the effort with a one-yard pass from Jensen Wagoner to Connor Sindelir.

The Buccaneer defense then forced a Viking punt and was in the midst of another potential touchdown drive before Miami East picked off a Covington pass to end the threat.

The Vikings used the momentum to their advantage to ty the score at 7-7 on a 12-yard run by Connor Dalton.

Covington then fumbled deep in its own territory on its next possession, but the Buccaneer defense was able to hold Miami East to a 31-yard field goal with 5:10 left in the first half.

With the first half quickly ticking away, Covington moved the ball deep into Viking territory, but turned the ball over via fumble inside the ten.

Once again, the Covington defense made a stand to force Miami East to punt from deep in its own end. The snap sailed over the head of the punter and out of the back of the end zone for a safety to cut the Buccaneer deficit to 10-9 at the break.

Miami East received the opening kickoff of the second half and returned the ball to its twenty. On the very offensive first snap Austin Francis ran straight up the gut and broke through the line of scrimmage for an 80-yard scoring run to push the Viking lead to 17-9.

Covington then fumbled the kickoff and Miami East recovered inside Buccaneer territory. A few plays later Francis scooted his way in from two yards out to push the lead to 23-9 with 6:23 left in the third.

The Vikings then attempted an onside kick, which bounced in and out of the hands of a Buccaneer and into the waiting arms of Miami East’s Max Wittenmyer.

Four plays later Francis scored from 14 yards out to widen the gap to 30-9 with 4:38 left in the third quarter.

“That was the game,” said Morgan in regards to the first seven minutes of the third quarter. “Bang, bang, bang, they had three scores. If you look at each play, minus the turnovers, it’s a totally different game.”

Still, Covington continued to grind and fight, but just couldn’t find a way to hit pay dirt under sloppy, rainy conditions.

“You can’t use it (rain) as an excuse because it was wet outside for both teams,” continued Morgan. “But I feel if we would have had maybe two turnovers instead of seven, we win the game. But it is what it is.”

Even with the seven turnovers Covington managed to rack up 226 yards of offense, 102 coming on the ground from senior Cam Kirker, who was moved to running back in place of the Buccaneers’ leading rusher, freshman Izaiah Sherman – who was held out due to an injury suffered a week ago.

“I’m so proud of the kids, particularly the seniors, because of how they continued to fight,” Morgan said. “These kids fought until the very last play even though victory was out of reach. That says a lot about the character of this group.”

Once the final second ticked off the clock, the emotions were raw and genuine as the Buccaneers consoled each other on the field for the final time in 2021.

“The emotions you saw is what happens when you pour years of hard work, sacrifice, pain, injuries, fun times, bad times, all into one and now it’s done,” said Morgan, with his focus on the six seniors who spilled their guts into the program. “Hopefully the young guys see that and soak it in. Senior years go by so fast and it’s hard to see that as a kid until it’s all of the sudden over.”

Covington finished its season with a 1-9 record, but the record isn’t the measure of what this senior class has meant to the program while they were in uniform and what they will continue to mean to the program going forward.

“These seniors set the standard,” Morgan emphasized. “These seniors are why we will be good in the future.”

And they are also why Covington should be proud, regardless of the final record.

BUCCS – 7 – 2 – 0 – 0 = 9
VIKINGS – 7 – 3 – 20 – 0 = 30

COV – Connor Sindelir 1yd pass from Jensen Wagoner (Ryan Rohr Kick)
ME – Connor Dalton 12-yd run (Jacob Roeth Kick)
ME – Jacob Roeth 31-yd Field Goal
COV – Safety
ME – Austin Francis 80-yd run (Jacob Roeth Kick)
ME – Austin Francis 2-yd run (Kick Failed)
ME – Austin Francis 14-yd run (Jacob Roeth Kick)

Jake Dilley recovers a fumble for the Buccs.
Jensen Wagoner throws a pass with Cam Kirker providing protection.