|COMIN' UP BIG...is what sophomore quarterback Jake Bitner did with 161 yards rushing and two touchdown runs.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2008 - WEST ALEXANDRIA
If Friday's battle between Covington and Twin Valley South is any indication of the future, football fans are in for plenty of thrills over the next few years when these two teams hook up.
It was a game between two young teams as both squads only had two seniors in uniform.
There were no shortage of highlights as big play after big play kept the tied turning from one end of the field to the other.
To top it off, the game was back-and-forth throughout and was decided in the final moments with a defensive stand by Covington to preserve a 32-26 win.
"This (game) sets the stage for a good series down the road," said Covington coach Dave Miller. "We're both young football teams so we'll see many of the same kids out her over the next couple of years. It makes for a good rivalry."
The fireworks started from the outset as Twin Valley South fumbled on its first play from scrimmage, but recovered to keep the drive alive.
Moments later Panther quarterback Miles McCollum darted through the Buccaneer defense on a quarterback keeper for a 44-yard touchdown run.
The extra point attempt was blocked, but the Panthers had the momentum with a 6-0 lead.
Covington responded on its first possession with an impressive drive of its own.
Starting on their own 46, Covington moved the ball methodically down the field - eating up the clock in the process.
The end result was an 8-yard touchdown run by Logan Woloch to tie the score as the Panthers blocked Covington's point-after attempt.
"I was pleased that we were able to put together a nice drive there in the first half," Miller said. "That's our style of football - move the chains and keep the other team's offense off the field."
That would be Covington's only long sustaining drive that resulted in points as the remaining Buccaneer points came as the result of big plays.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Bitner had the first big play as he opened the second quarter with a 32-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 12-6 as the kick failed once again.
But the Panthers bounced right back on its next possession as fullback Tyler Leach plowed over three Buccaneer defenders and broke free for a 53-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 12-12.
"We missed some tackles tonight and that's something we need to work on," Miller said.
Once again, Covington took little time to turn the tables as Logan Woloch scored his second touchdown of the night - this time on a 65-yard run. Woloch then made good on the extra point attempt to push the Buccaneer lead to 19-12 at the half.
"We were having a lot of success pitching the ball to the outside and letting our backs make plays," Miller described. "They (South) were giving us the outside and we just took what the defense was giving us."
Unfortunately for the Buccs, Woloch was injured and had to sit out the remainder of the game. With Chris Long, Andy Sparks, Joe Evans and Quentin Layman already on the sidelines in street clothes, the loss of Woloch forced the Buccs to adjust.
"Without Logan it was hard for us to hit the edge like we wanted in the second half," Miller continued. "We already had Cookie (Chris Long) out, so we were without two-thirds of our backfield."
The adjustment Covington made was mixing things up with fullback Garrett Clark and quarterback Jake Bitner.
Bitner took on the challenge and responded with his second big play of the game - this time a 73-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter to push the Covington lead to 26-12.
"I felt a little more comfortable with the 26-12 lead," said Miller. "With the two possession lead and with the way we were moving the ball, I just felt we were finally going to be able to pull away a little bit."
But the Panthers wouldn't go away as they responded with a 65-yard touchdown pass from McCollum to Grant Kreitzer and then a 7-yard run by McCollum to tie the score at 26-26 with just 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We had all the momentum and they got the big pass play," described Miller. "Then we give up the touchdown run there to tie the score and suddenly we're in a dogfight again."
The momentum switched in a matter of seconds as Garrett Clark broke free on the first play from scrimmage after the ensuing kick-off. The junior fullback plowed through the line of scrimmage and raced untouched to the end zone from 64 yards out.
But Covington gave the Panthers new life with the missed point-after attempt as the scoreboard read 32-26 with one quarter left to play.
And the highlights continued in the fourth quarter, although no more points were scored.
After stopping Covington at its own 40 with under 2:00 to play the Buccaneers were forced to punt. The snap sailed over punter Jordy Meyer's head and the ball was knocked into the hands of Garrett Clark as several players attempted to jump of the ball.
Clark somehow managed to find a crease to the outside and appeared close to first down yardage, but a Buccaneer block in the back gave the Panthers the ball at midfield.
From there Twin Valley South didn't have much luck and had to attempt a fourth down pass with under 30 seconds to go from the Covington 44.
The pass into triple coverage fell incomplete, but Covington was called for pass interference - moving the ball to the 20-yard line.
The Panthers moved the ball to the Covington eight, but was faced with fourth-and-goal with 19 seconds left in the contest.
With the game on the line the Buccaneer defense chased down McCollum for the sack to seal the contest.
"I'm happy with the way we responded with our backs against the wall," Miller said. "We faced so much adversity in this game with the injuries and mistakes. But the kids made the plays when we needed them and that's a confidence builder for a young team."
But it didn't have to come down to one last play.
"We put ourselves into that situation," Miller continued. "It comes down to playing to our potential - not just some of the time, but all the time. I don't care how young we are, we have a lot of guys who can really play this game well - and they show that at times. The kids have to learn how to do it all the time."
Covington improves to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the CCC and host National Trail next week for Homecoming.