|Trent Tobias makes the cut on his way to a 47-yard touchdown run.
SEPTEMBER 9, 2011 - BRANDT
There was a big sigh of relief from the Covington faithful who made the trip to Brandt Friday night to see their Buccs hold on for a 17-14 win against a gritty and determined Bethel team.
That's because Bethel went toe-to-toe with the Buccaneers and the game was in doubt until a Gabe Mohler sack of Bethel's Jon Ellerbrock on fourth down with under one minute left in the contest.
"That's a pretty good football team over there," said Covington coach Dave Miller of Bethel. "They are big, physical, athletic and fast. When you combine that with the emotion they played with, it makes for a big challenge."
And Covington was challenged in a very big way from the time Troy Cron took the opening kickoff to midfield.
The Bethel defense swarmed Covington, forcing a punt and followed with a well executed drive that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Ellerbrock to Benjamin Seale. The point-after kick by Brandon Garlough was true to give the Bees a 7-0 lead.
Covington couldn't get its own offense going throughout the first half, only settling for a 37-yard field goal by Steven Blei after having first-and-goal at the one. The Buccs were flagged on two straight plays for a motion penalty and delay of game.
"I have to do a better job coaching than I did tonight," Miller said. "I cost us on the goal line in the first half. That was all on me. I tried to get a little too cute and it cost us."
Meanwhile, the Covington defense held true to keep the dangerous Bethel offense in check to keep the score 7-3 at the break.
"Defensively, we played pretty well," said Miller. "They got us a couple of times, but other than that we played pretty well."
Covington took a huge gamble with an on-side kick to start the second half and the gamble paid off as the Buccs recovered the ball in Bethel territory.
But two penalties moved Covington back and forced a punt, killing the momentum gained from the special teams gem.
"We had nice field position there and squandered it away," Miller explained. "We had another delay of game penalty there and then got called for holding. We got ourselves into long yardage situations way too often tonight."
When Covington didn't shoot itself in the foot with untimely penalties, the Buccaneer offense began clicking.
"We didn't start getting into a rhythm offensively until the third quarter," said Miller.
Which is when the Buccs put together their first well executed scoring drive that was capped by a 2-yard run by Isaiah Winston. Steven Blei's point-after attempt took a Buccaneer bounce off the left upright to give Covington a 10-7 lead.
But just when it seemed Covington had all the momentum, Bethel struck back in three plays.
First, Austin Saggs returned the ensuing kickoff inside the Covington 30 and then Ellerbrock hooked up with Joseph Sherrer from 27 yards out two plays later. Garlough was good on the extra point attempt and Bethel reclaimed a 14-10 lead.
"Their quarterback is pretty good," praised Miller. "He used his legs to get outside and made some nice throws. And they have some nice receivers who can run."
Covington responded to Bethel's big plays with a big play of its own as Trent Tobias took the pitch from Isaiah Winston and used his blocking to race 47 yards for the score. Blei hit the point-after kick down the middle this time and the Buccs led 17-14 with one quarter to play.
And the final quarter was all about defense.
First, Bethel challenged with a drive past midfield, but Ellerbrock threw into double coverage and Sam Earick picked off the pass for Covington.
The Buccs then moved the ball inside the Bethel 20, but couldn't convert on a four-and-three with 1:55 left on the clock.
From it's own 16, Bethel went to work in an attempt for a game-winning drive.
But three straight pass attempts were knocked down by Buccaneer defenders and Mohler followed with a game-saving sack on fourth down.
"The kids hung in there and fought through the adversity," said Miller. "It wasn't our best effort, but the kids fought hard and got the win."
And as Isaiah Winston took a knee on the final two plays, the Bethel players showed the emotion of a great effort that fell short - dropping to their knees as the clock ran out.
"Give the Bethel kids credit, they played their hearts out," Miller said. "For us, we have some things we need to correct."
Because a hungry Bradford team awaits next Friday.