|Darren Clark scored his first high school touchdown by recovering a blocked punt in the end zone.
OCTOBER 9, 2009 - NEW PARIS
For the Covington Buccaneers to have a chance at keeping their playoff hopes alive, the primary objective is to win each week, improve with each outing and keep the current players in uniform healthy while those who are injured hopefully return to the lineup.
The Buccs accomplished each one of the goals on Friday in a muddy mess at National Trail. Covington cruised to a 44-12 win, showed improvement from its last outing, didn't suffer any major injuries and saw the return of Teddy Hale to the lineup.
"We came to play tonight and our week of practice was good," said Covington coach Dave Miller. "Josh (Boehringer) did get dinged up a little bit, but he should be fine. We'll ice him down this week and he should be ready to go (next week against Ansonia)."
The impact of Hale's return to the lineup was significant as the senior made an immediate impact defensively and on special teams with a blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone by sophomore Darren Clark.
"Having Teddy back is big for us," Miller said. "He's a difference maker out there because he has a knack for making big plays for us."
Another difference maker was senior fullback Garrett Clark, who rushed for 179 yards on 19 carries with two rushing touchdowns. He also returned a punt 55 yards for the score.
"Garrett's doing some very nice things out there," Miller praised. "He's not the biggest kid, but he's just so darn strong. He's lifting right up there with our lineman and that comes from all the work he's put in in the weight room."
Clark now has 1122 yards and 19 touchdowns in seven games, an average of 160 yards a game.
"I don't want to take anything away from Garrett because he's done a nice job, but the guys up front deserve a lot of credit too," said Miller. "Our line is beginning to dominate people. When our line is blowing people off the ball and we can get Garrett in the open field, he's tough to deal with. It all starts with those guys up front."
Covington waisted little time getting on the scoreboard as a heavy dose of Clark running behind the big Buccaneer offensive line resulted in a 19-yard run by Clark on the opening possession of the game.
But Covington had a mental lapse on special teams and defense as National Trail used a big return to move the ball deep into Buccaneer territory and ultimately cut the margin to 7-6 on a three-yard run.
"We're not pleased with that," said Miller. "To allow a big return after we go down and score was disappointing. But then to play uninspired defense after the return was even more disappointing."
Fortunately the Buccs resolved the issue with a dominating performance the rest of the way, not allowing National Trail anything until the younger kids came into the game in the fourth quarter.
"Other than the kickoff return and the first defensive series, we played pretty well," said Miller.
Which was evident by the 37 straight points put up by the Buccs on two more touchdowns by Clark (one via a punt return), the blocked punt recovered by Darren Clark, a 26-yard run by Tyler Noffsinger and a seven-yard score by Cory Ely.
The Buccaneer defense also contributed by stuffing the Blazers for a safety.
"We're improving and we'll continue to improve," said Miller. "We did a better job of protecting the football in some adverse conditions. We stayed very basic on offense and a lot of that was due to the conditions, but we executed pretty well."
Another significant improvement for the Buccs has been the quarterback play of sophomore Isaiah Winston, although it wasn't showcased against National Trail.
"Isaiah's improving every day," said Miller. "We didn't showcase him tonight, but he's starting to come into his own. I couldn't be more happy with him and how much he continues to improve."
The improvement also shows in the Buccs' record as they stand at 5-2 overall and 5-1 in the CCC with a big game against unbeaten Ansonia next week.