|Senior Justin Williams runs for a first down against Marion Local.
|Senior Chance Setters has been a key part of the Buccaneer defense.
NOVEMBER 16, 2013 - PIQUA
There's only one word to describe the 48 kids on the Covington football team - and that word is CHAMPIONS!
Forget what the scoreboard read at the conclusion of the Buccaneers' Division 7, Region 26 Semifinal against Marion Local because the Covington Buccaneers are CHAMPIONS in the hearts and minds of those who matter - the Covington community.
"Absolutely," said Covington coach Dave Miller. "This is a special group of kids."
Unfortunately, the Buccaneers won't have the opportunity to earn what they have worked so hard for - a state championship.
Which is a very hard pill to swallow after a gutty effort on Saturday against the two-time defending state champions, the Marion Local Flyers.
"I don't know what else our kids could have done," Miller said. "They left everything they had on the field. Unfortunately, it didn't go our way in the end."
Covington jumped out to a fast start by taking the opening possession of the contest and scoring on its fourth offensive play on a 41-yard run by senior A.J. Ouellette.
The Buccaneers defense then held Marion Local on fourth down inside the Covington twenty and then put together a 22-play drive that was capped by a two-yard run by sophomore quarterback Jared Williams.
Ouellette made true on the extra point to push the Buccaneer lead to 14-0.
A huge sequence in the game materialized on Marion Local's next possession and the Buccs had the Flyers in a fourth-and-three situation inside Flyer territory.
Marion Local was set to punt, but for some reason the officiating crew halted the action. Amongst the confusion a Buccaneer player was told to go to the sideline, forcing Covington to take a timeout.
Marion Local then went for it on fourth down and converted to keep the drive going.
Then, on another fourth down situation on the same drive the Buccaneer defense forced an interception with 3:30 left in the half. Unfortunately a pass interference penalty kept the Flyer drive alive and a few plays later Marion Local quarterback Adam Bertke plowed his way in from the two to cut the Covington lead to 14-7.
"That was a big sequence there," said Miller. "If we could have held them on fourth down there we had time to maybe go up 21-0 at the half. Instead, we let them off the hook and to their credit, they took advantage."
With momentum on its side, Marion Local took the opening possession of the second half and scored on the second play from scrimmage on a 55-yard pass from Adam Bertke to Hunter Wilker to tie the score at 14-14.
Covington then moved the ball near midfield, but failed to convert on fourth down, giving the Flyers the ball once again.
And Marion Local took advantage of the short field with a 25-yard scoring run by Aaron Nietfeld to give the Flyers their first lead of the game 21-14.
Covington wasn't to be deterred as A.J. Ouellette took the ensuing kickoff to near midfield with a nice return.
Ouellette followed by breaking a long run to the Flyer ten and a few plays later Bobby Alexander powered his way in from the three to tie the score at 21-21.
Marion Local followed by moving the ball methodically down the field once again, converting one of its four fourth down conversions in the contest on the drive. Bertke connected with Troy Homan in the right side of the end zone from eight yards out to give the Flyers a 28-21 lead with 9:30 left in the game.
But champions don't go down without a fight and Covington's championship heart was on display on the ensuing possession.
Taking over the ball at its own 20, Covington's Justin Williams converted on a huge fourth down at the Buccaneer 30 by plowing over a Flyer defender at the marker. From there, A.J. Ouellette broke loose for a 51-yard scoring run up the gut to tie the score at 28-28.
Ouellette would end the game with 225 yards rushing and his senior year with a school record 2,535 rushing yards.
Covington's defense then stepped up with a big fourth down stop at midfield on Marion Local's next possession and took the ball over with just over 5:00 left in the game.
After a run by Bobby Alexander for four yards, Covington's attempt at a game-winning score was halted by a sack and two straight penalties, which forced the Buccaneers to punt for the first time in the contest with 2:31 left in the game.
Which was too much time with Adam Bertke at the helm for the Flyers as the future University of Pittsburg prospect led the Flyers down the field and tossed a four-yard strike to Troy Homan with 29 seconds left in the game.
"We didn't finish," said Miller. "We had the ball with 5:00 left to go and a chance to take the lead, but we didn't finish."
Covington opened up the playbook in and attempt at a miraculous comeback, but the game was ended on a Buccaneer fumble at midfield.
Still, it was a game the kids in Covington uniforms didn't deserve to lose - especially a senior class that has put forth so much blood, sweat and tears into their high school careers. No class has worked harder than this one and they deserved for it to end better than a 35-28 loss in the regional semifinal.
Which is why the 2013 Covington Buccaneers are CHAMPIONS in the town of Covington - regardless of what the scoreboard read.