By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
COVINGTON — The Transitive Property of Equality tends to work a whole lot better in mathematics than it does with football.
Which is to say that just because “Team A” beats “Team B” and and “Team B” beats “Team C,” then “Team A” could beat “Team C.”
Still, though, given the scores by which the Marion Local football team beat its opponents on its way to a Division VII state championship last season after getting past Covington in the regional semifinals, one could make an awfully strong argument that had Covington managed to beat Marion Local, the Buccaneers would have rolled to a state championship last fall.
After Marion Local slipped past Covington 35-28 in the regional semifinals, the Flyers destroyed its next three opponents en route to a state championship — rolling past Triad (50-0) in the regional finals, St. John’s (35-6) in the state semifinals and Trimble (33-0) in the state title game — an average score of 39.3-2.0 the final three games of the season.
In fact, it could be argued the Buccaneers gave the Flyers their most competitive game of the season. Of the 15 teams Marion Local played last season, only three — Covington, St. John’s (in a regular-season contest) and Anna — kept Marion Local’s margin of victory less than four touchdowns. On the season, the Flyers outscored the opposition by an average score of 35.2-7.5.
All of which served to make Covington’s agonizingly close loss to Marion Local in the playoffs that much more painful.
In a game filled with twists and turns, Covington’s season — and, a speculative state championship — came down to one play.
With the game tied 28-28 and 1:20 left to play in the fourth quarter, Marion Local faced a fourth-and-10 from its own 49. Rather than punt the ball, Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin rolled the dice and elected to go for it. Quarterback Adam Bertke — who will be playing at the University of Pittsburgh this fall — hit receiver Austin Albers over the middle for a 15-yard gain, giving Marion Local a crucial first down.
Three plays later, Bertke found Troy Homan in the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown pass to give the Flyers a 35-28 lead with 29 seconds left to play in the game and ice the game.
Had Marion Local not been able to convert that crucial first down at midfield, there’s no telling where the game — or Covington’s season — may have gone.
Certainly a case could be argued that the Buccaneers would have been able to take the ball down the field and score in regulation — or possible win the game in overtime — because Marion Local simply had no answer for Covington running back A.J. Ouellette, who finished the game with 231 yards on 24 carries, with touchdown runs of 51 and 41 yards.
Of course, that was just a pretty typical performance for Ouellette in 2013.
After rushing for 2,434 as a junior, Ouellette followed that up by rushing for 2,533 yards in just 30 quarters (7.5 games) worth of action in 2013, frequently sitting out the second half of games in lopsided Covington victories. For his career, Ouellette set nearly every school rushing record, finishing with 7,498 career all-purpose yards, 5,475 career rushing yards, 99 career touchdowns and 672 career points scored.
With Ouellette leading the way, Covington — as has become custom in recent history — decimated the competition during the regular season on its way to a fourth-straight Cross County Conference title and its fourth undefeated regular season in a row. During the regular season, Covington outscored the opposition by an average score of 44.9-7.3
Covington’s roll continued through the first round of the playoffs, smashing Portsmouth Notre Dame 46-0 in the Division VII regional quarterfinals.
That set up the fateful meeting with Marion Local — and left many wondering “what might have been.”
“I just can’t say goodbye to them. I don’t want to have to say goodbye,” Covington coach Dave Miller said in the moments following the heartbreaking loss to the Flyers. “I love my kids, and I wanted 15 weeks with them. I wanted us to go all the way so I could be with them for three more weeks. That’s what I’m going to miss.”
Contat David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong