|HARD TO TACKLE...is what Jake Bitner and the Buccaneer runners were as they racked up 436 yards on the ground.
OCTOBER 3, 2008 - ANSONIA
Covington's come-from-behind 35-27 victory at Ansonia was a microcosm of the entire season as the Buccs faced adversity early on only to overcome with effort and determination.
"It's all about the attitudes of the kids right now," said a pleased Covington coach Dave Miller. "We've faced a lot of adversity so far this season and it was starting to have a negative affect on the kids."
Frustrating losses to New Bremen and Miami East along with a lackluster performance against Twin Valley South began to wear on the players as the injuries to key performers mounted.
It all came to a boiling point during preparation for last week's game against National Trail.
"We were having a terrible practice the Tuesday before the Trail game," Miller described. "The coaches just walked off the field and I told the kids they needed to figure out what the problem was. The kids ironed some things out and finished the practice on their own."
It was a gamble by the coaches, but Miller has seen the results he was looking for.
"Suddenly we've developed some leadership," he continued. "Kids are more vocal and taking charge now."
Which was needed against an Ansonia team riding a five-game winning streak and sitting at the top of the CCC standings with Miami East.
The Tigers held a 27-14 lead after a 58-yard run by Ryan Fosnaugh midway through the third quarter.
"A lot of young teams would have packed it in at that point and we may have well packed it in if we faced those circumstances earlier in the season," Miller said. "But the kids never lost their focus. We came right back and moved the ball down the field."
In the final seconds of the third quarter Garrett Clark pounded his way in from ten yards out to cut the margin to 27-21.
Clark, who ended the contest with 228 rushing yards on 29 carries also had touchdown runs of four yards and 70 yards.
"Garrett came to play tonight," Miller praised of his workhorse fullback. "He's starting to get it. He fires out and runs the ball very hard."
Covington got the ball right back as Ben Christian executed a perfect on-side kick that surprised the Tiger special teams.
Shortly thereafter Chris Long raced seven yards around the right side of the Tiger defense for the score on a fourth-and-goal situation.
Christian's kick then gave Covington a one-point lead, 28-27.
"That on-side kick was big," Miller said. "Ben did a great job of putting the ball where we needed to have a chance to get the recovery. It was very well executed."
The Buccaneer defense, which struggled containing Ansonia's high-powered running game throughout the contest, finally stiffened to force the Tigers to punt.
A pitch-out to Long resulted in ten yards and another fifteen was tacked on as a result of a face mask penalty.
Two plays later sophomore quarterback Jake Bitner faked out the Tiger defense and raced 20 yards through the heart of the defense for the score.
Christian followed with his fifth straight extra point to increase the margin to 35-27 with under 3:00 to play.
Looking to get back into the game, Ansonia mixed in a few more passes with their potent running game.
But the Tigers were forced to punt with 1:50 left on the clock, giving Covington excellent field position at mid-field.
Covington couldn't take advantage and punted the ball back to Ansonia, which took over at it's own 20 with under a minute to play.
The Tigers managed to move the ball into Covington territory as the Buccaneers focused on not surrendering the big play. The final seconds ticked off the clock after a short completion from Derek Bubeck to Ryan Fosnaugh.
"I told the kids that this is the first time all season we've looked like the Buccs," said Miller. "We looked like the old Buccaneers tonight."
That was evident as Covington piled up 436 yards of rushing on the evening, which is the eighth highest rushing total in school history. That's an impressive stat considering three freshman played on the offensive line.
"Having that many rushing yards with three freshman on the line is phenomenal," said Miller. "Those kids dominated up front and that was a good defense. If those kids (the freshman) keep working it's going to be scary as to how good they can be."
Not only did the young line assist Clark in his 228-yard effort, but it also led the way for 139 rushing yards for Bitner and 69 yards for Long.
The Buccaneer ground attack recorded a whopping 7.6 yards-per-carry.
"We watched Ansonia's defensive front on film and they looked good," Miller explained. "But our kids just caved in their line. Cody (Swabb) had a great game. I saw Ben (Christian) knocking his guy off the ball. And the freshman. Wow, they did an outstanding job."
The Buccaneers, now 5-2 overall and 5-1 in the CCC, look to keep the momentum rolling as they host Arcanum next Friday.