PIQUA – Run the football and control the clock.
That was the game plan for Covington in Saturday’s Division VII regional semifinal football game against Marion Local at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium.
There were no secrets in what Covington wanted to accomplish, as it set the tone in the first half.
In the first half, Covington had three offensive drives, while Marion Local managed just two drives by intermission.
However, in the second half, Marion Local made enough plays, including a 76-yard scoring drive in the waning moments of the game, en route to a 35-28 victory over Covington.
With the win, Marion Local (12-0) will play the winner of Saturday’s Triad and Lehman Catholic game, in the regional finals next Saturday at a site to be determined.
With the game tied at 28, Marion Local got the ball back with 2:34 left to play.
The Flyers then traveled 76 yards in a little more than two minutes, capping off the drive with a 4-yard TD pass from quarterback Adam Bertke to Troy Homan (8 catches for 65 yards, two TDs), giving the Flyers the lead for good.
In that final drive for Marion Local, the Flyers converted on a fourth-and-10 play near midfield to keep its hopes alive.
“We were thinking touchdown all the way,” Bertke said. “Our offense executed for the most part all night. And down the stretch, our guys were clutch, and they did their jobs. That’s what happens when everybody does their jobs.”
Bertke was 16-of-28 passing for 199 yards and three TDs. Bertke also rushed 13 times for 51 yards and a score. The Pittsburgh-bound Bertke was making his second consecutive start after missing four games with an injury.
“I think Covington’s DBs were really physical with us,” Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin said. “It was a really hard-fought win. They (Covington) are a physical team, and I know the sting of losing is going to hurt. But, they have no reason to be ashamed. …They played outstanding.”
Covington’s A.J. Ouelette led all rushers with 227 yards on 26 carries and two TDs.
Covington (11-1) controlled the clock in the first half, taking a 14-7 lead into the halftime break.
Marion Local then came out after the break and took over, scoring on its first two drives of the half.
It took the Flyers just two plays to score on its opening drive of the second half.
Bertke connected with Hunter Wilker for a 55-yard scoring strike. With the point-after by Peyton Kramer, the game was knotted at 14 apiece.
Marion Local’s second drive went just 51 yards in six plays. Aaron Nietfeld (six carries for 40 yards) went in from 12 yards out to give the Flyers the first lead of the game.
Covington answered with an 80-yard scoring drive that took just six plays. Bobby Alexander capped off the drive with a 2-yard run to knot the game at 21-21.
Marion Local came punching back at the Buccaneers.
On the next drive, Bertke found Homan open for a 5-yard scoring strike. With the point after, the Flyers now led 28-21.
However, the Bucs came right back with a successful drive of their own. Ouelette found a seam in the Flyers’ defense and scampered 51 yards for the score. With the extra point, the game was tied at 28 each.
The Flyers had one more opportunity.
Bertke then orchestrated a 76-yard drive and capped it off with a TD pass to Homan.
“They’re a great team and we knew that,” Covington coach Dave Miller said. “They make plays when they have to. That’s why they’re the defending two-time state champions and mostly likely (will be) the third.”