By Rob Kiser
COVINGTON — Covington football coach Ty Cates couldn’t think of a better way for his seniors to go out in their final home game.
And it seemed fitting quarterback Nathan Blei’s final touchdown pass on his home field added his name in the record books one more time.
And while it all added up to a 49-0 win over Hillcrest Academy in the opening round of the Division VII playoffs to improve to 11-0, the Buccs aren’t satisfied yet.
Covington will play Fort Recovery in the regional semifinals at 7 p.m. Saturday at a site and time to be determined Saturday.
“We want four more,” Blei said referring to what it would take to win a state championship. “That’s been our goal.”
Blei finished the game with seven completions in 10 attempts for 147 yards and three touchdowns, all to Zane Barnes. That upped his season totals unofficially to 104 for 161 for 1,916 yards and 27 touchdowns. He added to the TD record he already had and now has the single-season yardage record.
“It felt great (to get the record),” Blei said. “My teammates all did a great job.”
Maybe the most amazing thing is Blei had played in a triple-option offense until this season, when Cates took over the Buccs program.
“Don’t get me wrong, the triple-option is a great offense,” Cates said. “But, to come from that with almost no passing to what he has done this season. Nathan’s accuracy is just pinpoint. He has some tall targets which help.”
Blei said it was a natural transition.
“The offensive line has done a great job blocking,” he said. “All the backs and receiver have done a great job.”
And on Saturday night, it helped the Buccs set the tone early and Hillcrest Academy never recovered.
With the Rams loading the box, Covington was able to mix the run and pass to perfection.
On the opening drive, Blei found Barnes for a 32-yard touchdown, the first of his TD catches on the night — and the Buccs were off and rolling. Blei’s kick made it 7-0.
“Everything we did on offense, we executed,” Cates said. “They were loading the box, so we were able to take advantage and executed those plays to perfection.”
Covington scored on every offensive possession to take a 36-0 halftime lead.
Lance Miller, who rushed for 106 yards on just 13 carries, had touchdown runs of 20 and 1 yards, while Deron White bulled into the end zone from six yards out, before Blei capped the half with a 16-yard TD pass to Barnes.
Blei had three more PAT kicks and threw for a two-point PAT.
At, the same time, the Covington defense turned in one of its best effort, completely stuffing the Rams running game.
The Rams had negative yards rushing for the game and while quarterback Bennie Allen had more than 100 yards passing, Hillcrest never dented the scoreboard.
Ty Freeman had an interception, to set up Miller’s TD run from 20 yards one-play later.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” Cates said. “To shut out a team with those kind of athletes, Our special teams was outstanding. We really played well tonight.”
Joey Schmelzer added a touchdown run in the second half, while Blei’s threw a third TD pass to Barnes to to break the passing record.
“I know it was probably bittersweet for the kids with this being their final home game,” Cates said. “But, I think they are proud of the way they played and I know I am proud of the way they played.”
The only thing that could top it is “four more”.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.