By Ben Robinson
NEW PARIS — The last time the Covington Buccaneers walked off the field with a losing record was in 1994 when the Buccs fielded a 4-6 record.
Now, twenty-three years later, the Covington Buccaneers found themselves one play from matching the 1994 team with a 4-6 record as National Trail went for broke by attempting a two-point conversion after cutting a 7-0 deficit with a short touchdown run by Evan Short with 18 seconds left in the game.
But the Covington defense was up to the task as the Blazers attempted a pass in the flat as senior defensive back Zach Parrett was “Jonny on the spot” by knocking the ball to the turf to preserve the narrow 7-6 win for the Buccaneers.
“The conditions were tough and I’m proud of our kids for the way the fought to the end,” said Covington coach Tyler Cates. “Zach made a big play at the end there to preserve the win.”
The weather for the contest was as horrid as it possibly could be as a steady downpour of rain persisted throughout the contest.
This made it very difficult for either team to implement a passing game.
“In those conditions, it’s difficult for the quarterback to grip the ball and set up his feet,” Cates explained. “Cade (Schmelzer) told me he couldn’t get a grip on the ball, so we had to go primarily with the running game. It made us one dimensional.”
Still, Covington was able to move the ball at will in the first half as it racked up just under 200 yards of offense to just 40 for the Blazers in the first half.
But Covington came up empty in two trips inside the Blazer ten in the first half resulting in a scoreless contest at the break.
“We had a couple of turnovers and missed a field goal,” said Cates. “We just didn’t finish when we got down there.”
Covington elected to attempt an onside kick to start the second half and recovered the attempt for excellent field position near midfield.
Two plays later sophomore quarterback Cade Schmelzer broke off a 42-yard run to the Blazer three in a quarterback keeper.
Senior halfback Ethan Herron then did the rest by plowing his way in from three yards out to give Covington a 7-0 lead.
The score remained 7-0 into the fourth quarter as Covington had another golden opportunity to score with the ball inside the Blazer five once again.
Unfortunately a mishandled snap in the wet conditions on a fourth-and-one attempt resulted in a turnover on downs.
The Covington defense, which held National Trail to just 99 yards of total offense, gave the ball back to the offense with a three-and-out with just over six minutes left in the game.
A nice punt by National Trail pinned Covington inside its own twenty, but Covington was able to record two first downs on critical runs by sophomore fullback Gage Kerrigan to eat nearly four minutes off the clock.
Looking to put the game away, Covington committed the one sin it couldn’t afford as it put the ball on the ground and National Trail recovered at the Buccaneer forty with two-minutes left.
In a game that was played primarily with a running game, National Trail went to the air as the rain intensified.
But the Blazers were able to execute and move the ball inside the Buccaneer five thanks to pin-point passes and a pass interference penalty on Covington.
With 18 seconds left National Trail was able to push the ball across the goal line on a one-yard run by Evan Short.
National Trail then elected to go for two points and the win, which put Zach Parrett in position to play hero in his final high school game.
“We thought Zach was going to be our big play guy on offense, but for him to come up big for us win defense is awesome,” said Cates. “That was the play of the game.”
It was a play that evened Covington’s record to 5-5 on the season, extending its streak to 23 years without a losing season.