|Freshman Zach Parrett hauls in a touchdown pass in the second quarter.
|Lance Miller runs for a first down against Bethel.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2014 - COVINGTON
Prior to the season there were many questions about a young Covington football team due to many new faces in the lineup thanks to the graduation of a very talented senior class.
Throughout two-a-days, three scrimmages and three games prior to Friday night's showdown against unbeaten Bethel, the questions remained as to what type of team the Covington Buccaneers had on the field.
Is this a team capable of defending a conference championship and extending a playoff streak to 10 straight seasons? Or, is it a team too raw and inexperienced to hang with the better teams in the Cross County Conference?
After 48 minutes of football in a 41-7 win over the Bees, many of those questions are starting to be answered as the young Buccaneers executed "Dave Miller Football" to near perfection.
"This was a pretty good team effort across the board," praised Covington coach Dave Miller. "It started in practice this week. We had a great week of practice and we carried it over to the game."
"Dave Miller Football" is about execution, protecting the football, controlling the clock and maxing out in effort.
And the Buccaneers did all of those things on Friday.
Zero turnovers. An advantage of 37:47 to 10:13 in time of possession. And, a completed effort on both sides of the ball for every player that saw the field.
"Good stuff," said Miller of his team's performance. "The time of possession is huge. That's what our offense is designed to do and the kids executed it."
And it wasn't just one or two players who contributed in the 334 yards of total offense the Buccaneers accumulated on the night.
It was a stellar effort up front by the offensive line, wideouts blocking on the edge and eight different players carrying the ball.
The only hiccup for Covington all night offensively was a penalty that stalled the opening drive of the second half.
"We moved the ball very well," Miller said. "We had several 10, 11, 12-play drives tonight and that's what we need to do to be successful."
After a fumble recovery by junior Logan Fields on Bethel's opening possession of the game, Covington opened the scoring with an 8-yard touchdown run by Brock Murphy that capped a short 20-yard drive in the first quarter.
But Bethel caught the Buccaneer defense out of position on its next possession as senior speedster Mason Kretzer broke free around left end for a 62-yard jaunt to tie the score at 7-7.
"They caught us on the touchdown run there," Miller explained. "They called the perfect play against the defense we called, so that one wasn't on the kids."
Covington responded on the ensuing possession by moving the ball methodically down the field.
Starting at its own 36, Covington used 10 plays to reach pay dirt on a freshman to freshman connection as Ethan Herron found Zach Parrett wide open from 15 yards on on a halfback pass to push the Buccaneer lead to 14-7.
After forcing Bethel to punt, the Buccaneers went back to their ground-and-pound attack once again.
Starting at their own 37, Covington pounded its way 63 yards down the field on nine plays to score on a two-yard run by Brock Murphy and push the margin to 21-7.
After another Bethel three-and-out, Covington then capped the first half with a two-yard run by Ian Fries to make the score 27-7 at the break as the point-after was wide right.
"Our defense played well," praised Miller as Covington only surrendered 134 yards on the night. "Other than the touchdown run by them, we shut down a pretty good offense."
Covington took the opening kickoff of the second half and converted two fourth down plays to move the ball into Bethel territory.
Unfortunately, a penalty stalled the drive, forcing the Buccs to punt for the only time in the game.
And Bethel appeared to find some offensive continuity on the ensuing possession as five straight pass plays moved the ball into Buccaneer territory - forcing Miller to take a timeout to refocus his defense.
After the timeout, senior Brock Murphy knocked a Bethel pass into the air and sophomore Lance Miller pulled down the interception to give the Buccs the ball at their own seven.
And the ensuing Buccaneer possession was "Dave Miller Football" at its best as Covington went 12 plays for 93 yards and a touchdown on a six-yard run by Brock Murphy.
"That was huge," said Miller of the 12-play drive. "It took almost an entire quarter of time off the clock when you consider it started in the third and we scored in the fourth quarter. That was an impressive drive by the kids."
Trailing 34-7, Bethel had to take chances and Covington capitalized once again as Lance Miller picked off a Jacob Evans pass near mid-field and returned the ball to the two.
On the very next play Miller finished what he started by plowing in from the two for a 41-7 Buccaneer lead.
From there the running clock took over and Covington walked off the field a 41-7 winner.
"I give all credit to the kids," Miller said. "Our attitudes are great. They had fun this week in practice and they had fun tonight. This is a close nit group of kids and when you have that you have something special."
Still, there is a lot of improvement ahead for this young team to become the team Miller feels the Buccs can eventually become.
"We are not there yet by any means," he continued. "But we are improving every day and that's really what this is really all about, getting better. The kids are always looking to get better."
Covington (3-1, 3-0) will have another opportunity to improve next week as it hosts Cincinnati College Prep Academy, an opponent that replaces the game that was originally scheduled against rival Bradford.