|Chance Setters battles a Blazer receiver for one of his two interceptions.
|Ben Miller reacts to a defensive stand by the Buccs.
OCTOBER 25, 2013 - NEW PARIS
Yes, National Trail was 7-1 coming into Friday night's game against unbeaten Covington - and yes, the Buccaneers dominated the action from start to finish en route to a 42-0 victory.
But Covington coach Dave Miller understands the big picture and what his football team is capable of, which is why he was very critical of his team's performance in a lopsided win over a quality football team.
"We did some nice things, don't get me wrong," Miller said. "But we've got to learn to go harder all of the time, not just when we feel like it. It starts in our pre-game warmups. We have to take that just as seriously as we do a big game."
Covington's pre-game warmup was not good at all, to put it mildly, and not being focused every time you step on the football field can come back to bite the Buccs as the stakes become higher.
"If we want to get to where we want to go as a team, we have to correct some things," emphasized Miller. "It starts with our preparation."
Covington was able to get away with its lackadaisical pre-game thanks to a record-breaking performance by senior running back/fullback A.J. Ouellette, who broke his own school record with the most rushing yards in a game with a 359-yard performance.
"A.J. gets it," Miller said. "And so does a lot of the other kids, but we need everyone to give maximum effort regardless of what's on the scoreboard."
National Trail received the opening kickoff and picked up a quick first down before the Buccaneer defense stiffened to force a punt that was kicked to the Buccaneer sideline.
On the Buccs' third offensive play Ouellette broke free around right end and raced 48 yards for the score to give Covington a 7-0 lead.
National Trail, which used primarily the passing game to attack the Covington defense, couldn't get anything going on its next possession and turned the ball over to the Buccs on four plays on the ensuing possession.
And Covington put together a six-play drive that was capped by a two-yard Ouellette run to increase the margin to 14-0 with 2:53 left in the opening frame.
Things went from bad to worse for the Blazers on the ensuing kickoff as Devin Mize mishandled the kickoff and Covington recovered at the one. Ouellette powered his way in on the very next play to push the margin to 21-0 to close out the first quarter.
"We controlled the line of scrimmage and our backs ran hard," Miller said. "The five turnovers were big too."
Covington intercepted the first of four Blazer passes to open the second quarter and senior fullback Bobby Alexander capped the theft with a four-yard plunge to increased the Covington lead to 28-0 with 9:07 left in the first half.
National Trail appeared to be gaining some momentum on the following drive as it moved the ball to the Buccaneer side of the field for the first time in the contest and had first-and-ten 30 yards from the end zone.
But Covington senior Chance Setters picked off the second Garrett Griffin pass to end the threat at the nine.
A few plays later Ouellette found a crease on the right side and raced down the Buccaneer sideline for a 46-yard scoring run to make the score 35-0 in Covington's favor at the half.
Covington opened the second half with a time consuming drive deep into National Trail territory, but the Buccaneers missed on a golden opportunity to score with a pass to a wide open receiver that was off the mark.
"We missed on some throws that were there," said Miller. "We don't throw the ball much, but when it's there we need to capitalize."
A holding penalty moved Covington back and the Buccs failed to convert on a fourth-and-eight, turning the ball over on downs to the Blazers inside the 20.
National Trail then moved the ball near midfield, but was picked off once again by Ouellette at the Buccaneer 35.
After a run for no gain, Ouellette broke loose one last time from 65 yards away and plowed through a Blazer defender at the goal line to push the Covington lead to 42-0 with 3:53 left in the third quarter.
From there the Buccs rotated in the younger players and killed the clock with three time consuming drives that ended in Blazer territory.
"It's a good win, but there are things we need to work on," Miller said. "We did do some nice things, forced some turnovers and controlled the line of scrimmage, but we still have a ways to go to get to where we want to be."
Covington improves to 9-0 overall and locks up at least a share of the CCC title with an 8-0 record, but there's so much more out there for a team with high expectations.
Which is why Dave Miller is critical of his team's performance, even in a 42-0 win.