Three plays and 30 seconds turned the Division VII, Region 28 semifinal into a one-sided affair. Now Fort Recovery heads to the regional finals for the second year in a row, while Covington begins another long off-season.
Piqua—Seldom has a game, not to mention two-seasons, turned so quickly.
When Zach Parrett intercepted a Caleb Martin pass and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown, Covington and Fort Recovery were tied at 14-all, despite the top-ranked Buccs having been completely out-played by the defending D-VII state champs.
There were 39 seconds remaining in the first-half, but that turned out to be more than enough time for the Indians to change the course of the game.
Martin completed three straight passes to three different receivers, the last a 21 yard strike to Jason Roessner for a touchdown. The 30-second drive gave Fort Recovery a 21-14 lead at the break, and they dominated the second half for a 42-14 win at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field.
“It was a great season,” said a subdued Covington head coach Ty Cates. “It was a great group of seniors to come into. I feel blessed to have coached these young men. Tonight was just not our night. We didn’t play very well, and they did.”
Fort Recovery advances to meet Minster for the second straight season in the Region 28 final next Saturday, while Covington finishes the year at 11-1 with another disappointing loss to a MAC School in the playoffs.
Since 2002, Covington is a combined 0-8 against Marion Local, Delphos St John’s, Coldwater and now Fort Recovery in post-season play. But this time was supposed to be different.
Cates had installed a passing attack in the Buccs offense, and quarterback Nathan Blei flourished, throwing for over 1,900 yards and a school-record 27 touchdowns.
Covington started the game on fire, too, traveling 55 yards in 5 plays on the opening drive. Blei found Zane Barnes over the middle with a 22 yard touchdown pass, and Covington lead 7-0 barely two minutes into the game.
That was the last time the high-powered Buccaneers offense saw the end zone.
“I call the offense, and I take the full blame on that,” said Cates. “They made some adjustments on blitzes and coverages and we got behind the sticks. We would move the ball, then have a penalty or throw a pick. We just made too many mistakes.”
“It took that drive to get our feet under us defensively,” said Recovery head coach Brent Niekamp. “It took us that long to figure out what they were trying to do to attack us. Once we got that figured out, the defense played pretty well.”
The Indians tied the score in the opening minute of the second quarter when Roessner scored on a 2 yard run. Wil Homan, who torched the Buccs for 226 yards on 23 carries, then gave the defending champs the lead with a 31 yard run.
Parrett’s pick-six tied the score, and Recovery started from their own 33. Martin found Ryan Braun for a gain of 25, Homan for a gain of 21, and Roessner for 21 and the touchdown with 9 seconds to spare. Instead of Covington having the momentum, it was all on the Indians side of the field, and Recovery dominated the second half.
“I was super-proud of our response to that,” Niekamp said with a smile. “They made a play, and our center Chris Link said ’40 seconds, that’s enough time.’ I think because of what we face every week we are used to situations like that. We train ourselves to step up in those situations, or it can get hard. We just always move forward.”
“That score killed us, it just broke our backs,” Cates agreed. “Our kids played hard until the end, but that was the turning point in the game.”
“I knew that I had to respond in the right way,” said the Indians senior quarterback. “If I had responded the wrong way, then maybe my teammates get down a little bit. I knew I had to make some plays, and it paid off.”
Homan scored on a 41-yard run up the middle to make it 28-14. Roessner scored his third TD of the night on a five-yard run, and Homan finished off the scoring with a 37 yard run.
The Indians have been plagued with injuries throughout the season, but everyone is healthy now, and no one is happier about that than the Indians head coach.
“I thought that it would take that for us to win tonight, and that’s what happen. It makes me really happy because moving forward knowing that we have all phases of our game firing, feels really good. We have been trying to work toward that all year, but it’s just been a little bit elusive at times. Now we feel like we are clicking.”
Martin completed just 6 of 12 passes for the Indians, but they were deadly, going for 121 yards and that one very big touchdown.
For Covington, Lance Miller gained 51-yards to lead the ground attack, and the passing game never did find a rythym. Blei finished 9 -27 for 126 yards and two interceptions.
Covington’s offense had been dominant all season long, but never got going after that opening drive.
“That is still a football team that likes to run the ball, and they take a lot of pride in being able to pound on you up front,” Niekamp shared. “The fact that our front four was able to control the game and not let them get a push when they wanted to run the ball was huge. We basically forced them to play left-handed. When that happened then they had to go to the parts of their game they were less comfortable with doing.”
The Indians recent football success has changed the mood of the community, according to Martin.
“Hey, we are a football town now.” He said with a grin. “To come out and see the type of support we get is awesome. This was an hour drive, and we still almost packed the stands. It’s great.
The game with Minster will feature a pair of 8-4 teams, and a rematch of last years regional final. Recovery won that game, and this year’s week 5 match-up by identical 33-21 scores.
“They hurt us through the air more than I thought they would going into the game,” Niekamp remembered. “We ran the ball pretty well and stopped their run. But they’ve got Schmiesing back now and he is at full speed and really playing tough football. Obviously, since they beat Coldwater, and on through the end of the season, they have turned some things around. So it will be a challenge. It’s exciting to still be playing and be able to get ready for that.”