At Long Last

At long last

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Gus Rose has done a lot of things for Covenant during his career. He’s played some quarterback and a number of other spots, but he settled in at middle linebacker this season where he’s been a solid, steady player.

Covenant's John Meade celebrates the first victory in school history over STAB.

But Rose has made no bigger play in his career than when he read STAB quarterback Jake Allen’s eyes in overtime Friday evening.

“I just read his eyes and flowed that way,” Rose said. “I just floated over there.”

Rose stepped in front of the pass near the goalline and picked it off. As he slid to the ground just outside the endzone, pandemonium ensued as Covenant’s student section rushed the field as the Eagles capped a 21-13 victory over the Saints, the first in school history over their cross-town rivals.

“Our defense played great all game, it was just incredible,” said Covenant quarterback Brady Doyle. “And for Gus to come up with the biggest play all season, I just couldn’t be prouder of him.”

But it didn’t come as easy as Rose made that final pick look. Covenant squandered a 13-0 lead at the start of the fourth quarter as STAB’s winless squad scrapped its way back into the game. Allen tossed a pair of fourth quarter touchdown passes, the second coming with less than 30 seconds to play in the game when he hit Will Eppard for a 39-yard catch and run that evened the game at 13-13. STAB barely missed taking the lead on the PAT after a penalty moved it back and the attempt banged off the upright and fell short.

After Covenant couldn’t score on the ensuing drive, the game headed to overtime with Covenant getting the ball first. After three straight unsuccessful runs up the middle, Covenant went into the playbook and dug up a play that scored against Blue Ridge.

“I won’t lie I was a little excited,” Doyle said. “I knew it was going to work.”

Doyle dropped back and pump faked a swing pass to Gaston which split the linebackers for STAB and left Peter Gould wide open in the middle of the field. Doyle put it right on him Gould hauled it in.

“It was an amazing feeling,” Doyle said. “As soon as I let it go, I knew he was going to catch it.”

The Eagles opted to go for two and this time Doyle found big tight end John Meade on a pop pass, but Meade had to do a little more work than Gould.

“John Meade is a monster,” Doyle said. “I actually underthrew him, it was a bad pass and he comes up with probably the most incredible catch I’ve seen all season.”

The Saints put the ball back in Allen’s hands after his hot fourth quarter performance, but that’s when Rose made one of the most memorable plays in Covenant’s short football history and ended one of the most frustrating losing droughts in Central Virginia.

The Eagles’ defense earned the win too, with five interceptions on the day including Rose’s heady effort on the final play. Doyle had two picks in the first half while Jordan Hendrick had two of his own, including one that he returned 50 yards for a touchdown for Covenant’s opening score. STAB still managed to outgain Covenant 251 yards to 166 yards of total offense, with Gaston’s 78-yard, one-touchdown day on 11 carries leading the way.

But, while it wasn’t pretty, it’s the signature win of the Dave Rocco era, ending years of losses to the Saints. The players doused Rocco not just in ice and water but with bottles of generic soda.

“There’s a running joke that I always have a soda in my hand all day long so I think they might have planned this ahead of time,” Rocco said.

Allen finished with 147 yards and two touchdowns in the passing game, but the five interceptions proved costly. The Saints had little choice but to air it out some after Lloyd Smith got hurt early in the game, another in a string of tough injuries for the Saints this year.

“With what we’ve gone through, for them to fight back and tie it up in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win it there, I’m just so proud of them,” said STAB coach John Blake. “It seems that we get a little snakebit every time. But we haven’t won a game and our kids are coming out and fighting in the fourth quarter — it shows a lot.”

Gideon Elron had seven tackles to lead the defensive effort for the Saints.

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