|Senior Brock Murphy evades a Blazer defender on a four-yard scoring run.
|Senior Josh Earick fires off the ball on defense.
OCTOBER 24, 2014 - COVINGTON
The Covington sideline resembled a mash unit on Friday as it seemed as many players were in street clothes as there were in uniform.
But despite having just eight upperclassman (junior and seniors) in uniform and starting 10 sophomores and two freshman, the Buccaneers were able to gut out a 24-14 win over a senior laden National Trail team.
"This is a great team win," said Covington coach Dave Miller. "Our kids have faced so much adversity this season, but their attitudes and effort have never wavered. That's what carried us tonight."
National Trail entered the contest at 5-3 on the season and averaging 36.5 points-per-game behind senior quarterback Garrett Griffin, who has 78 career touchdown passes and 7,062 career passing yards.
But Covington made life miserable for Griffin and the Blazer offense, holding National Trail to a season-low 14 points and Griffin to just 209 yards through the air.
"We came at them," Miller explained of Covington's defensive strategy. "That's an offense that can put points up in a hurry, so you can't let him (Griffin) sit back there and get comfortable. We put a lot of pressure on their quarterback. Our linebackers played very, very well tonight."
The linebacking unit on sophomores Lance Miller, Deron White and junior Ben Kuether were all over the field. Whether it was chasing down Griffin on blitzes or cutting down Blazer receivers, the Buccaneer linebackers were "Johnny On The Spot".
"Coach G (Covington's defensive coordinator) did a great job of mixing things up with his play calling," praised Miller. "And our kids executed what he called, did a great job of filling the lanes and forcing the issue on their offense."
Covington's offense helped out the defense with clock-eating drives that kept the Blazer offense off the field.
And it all began on the opening drive of the game as Covington took over the ball at its own 27 and drove 73 yards in 10 plays to reach pay dirt on a 31-yard scoring strike from sophomore quarterback Nathan Blei to fellow sophomore Branden Robinson.
Blei then made true on the point-after attempt and the Buccs were up 7-0 with 6:44 off the clock.
"That's what this offense is designed to do," stated Miller in regards to his team chewing up clock. "The kids have bought into that philosophy - protect the football and sustain drives."
The remainder of the half was a battle of field position until the Blazers hit on a 16-yard scoring strike from Griffin to Phillip White late in the second quarter to cut the Covington advantage to 7-6 as the extra point attempt went wide right.
Covington teed it up to start the second half and turned the momentum in its favor with well executed special teams play as Branden Robinson elevated a kick toward the Blazer sideline and freshman Ethan Herron out hustled a National Trail player to the ball, giving the Buccs the ball at the National Trail 26.
"That was a huge play," Miller said. "Branden got some elevation on the ball and Ethan just made a great play to get to the ball before it went out of bounds. That's a heads-up play by a freshman."
After a 10-yard Robinson run and a face mask penalty by National Trail, senior Brock Murphy scooted in from four-yards out to push the Buccaneer lead to 14-6 as Blei connected on the point-after kick.
National Trail took the ensuing possession deep into Covington territory, but the Buccaneer defense made yet another huge play as sophomore linebacker Lance Miller forced a Blazer fumble that was recovered by senior Logan Perkins at the 19.
Covington then put together the drive of the game as it used nearly eight minutes of the clock on 14 plays to convert on a 26-yard field goal by Nathan Blei to push the Buccaneer lead to 17-6.
"That was a big drive for us," Miller said. "We converted on a couple of fourth downs there that kept the drive going. Deron (White) ran hard in our dynamite package."
National Trail took over on its next possession at the 35, but the Buccaneers forced the Blazers to punt on a two back-to-back huge sacks by senior Josh Earick and sophomore Lance Miller.
Covington then took time off the clock on yet another long drive, but couldn't convert it into points.
But punter Nathan Blei was able to pin National Trail deep into its own territory at the Blazer five.
On the very first play of the possession Lance Miller stripped the ball from a Blazer running back and pounced on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Blei connected on the extra point kick to push the Buccaneer lead to 24-6 with 4:55 left in the game.
National Trail then took over the ball at its own 37 and Garrett Griffin showed why he is a great high school quarterback by leading his team 63 yards in just seven plays. Griffin connected with Kyle Johnson from 11 yards out for the touchdown and then found Corbin Hobbit for the two-point conversion to cut the margin to 24-14 with 2:44 left.
After an on-side kick attempt, the Blazer defense held on a fourth-and-two to take over the ball at its own 40 with 2:09 left.
With no timeouts left, National Trail went to the air once again and moved the ball to the Covington 29 with 1:00 to play. Looking for the big play, Griffin went deep down the right sideline, but Covington's Brock Murphy made a great play to pull down the interception in the end zone.
Covington then took three kneel downs to run out the clock and earn a 24-14 win in the final game at Smith Field for seniors Josh Earick, Brock Murphy, Logan Perkins and Robert Gengler, who has been out for three weeks with a broken leg.
"This was a great way for our seniors to go out on their home field," said Miller. "That's a small group, but they are some great kids."
The win pushes Covington's record to 5-4 on the season and 4-3 in the CCC.
The Buccs close out the regular season next week at Ansonia, hoping for a win and help to qualify for the state playoffs for the 15th time in 16 years.