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Covington does it all for Eagles
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    It was first and goal inside the one — about a foot and a half short of the goal line actually — with 2.5 seconds remaining before halftime. Western Carolina, trailing 27-0, desperately needed some points.
    Catamount coach Kent Briggs eschewed the field goal, electing instead to go for a touchdown. Surely his offense could gain 18 inches. Bad decision.
    The reason it was a bad decision was Chris Covington.
    The Georgia Southern strong safety came up quickly and drilled Catamount tailback Willie Harper just as he got the handoff. That ended the threat, and the half.
    “There was nothing special that I saw,” said Covington. “They had just taken a time out, and we got a chance to change our call. Everyone was focused and I just went to the ball.”
    Although Georgia Southern would go on to win the game handily, 50-21, on a bounce back week from a disappointing 45-38 overtime loss to Chattanooga the stop by Covington was one of the bigger plays of the game, said Coach Chris Hatcher.
    “You bet it was a big play,” said Hatcher. “It enabled us to keep them out of the end zone and kept them from building any momentum going into the half. At that point the game was far from over.”
    The Eagles then took the second half kickoff and drove down for a field goal for a 30-0 lead, their sixth straight scoring possession. The Catamounts were never able to mount much of a threat after that as the Eagles built a 50-7 lead.
    A year ago Covington was busy as a running back, leading the Eagles in rushing with 824 yards while scoring eight touchdowns. Prior to the start of spring practice the decision was made to move Covington to defense.
    “When we got here we didn’t know any of the guys,” said defensive coordinator Ashley Anders. “We saw the depth chart, and knew we were thin on the defensive side of the ball. We did some research and found he had some defensive background in high school… one of the only ones.
    “We hadn’t seen him play live, and moved him just to add some depth for spring practice,” said Anders. “Coach Hatcher made the decision, and I’m glad he did.”
    The Eagles may have just been looking for someone to fill out a roster, but they didn’t count on Covington’s competitiveness and intensity. He does nothing halfway.
    “It’s a different mentality (playing defense),” said Covington. “It’s a tougher mentality. You can have your back to the wall, you can be put in a bad situation in a game, and you just have to toughen up and make a stop.”
    Which is what Covington did against the Catamounts. And, he and his fellow defenders are going to be asked to do more in the coming weeks.
    The Eagles (3-1, 1-1) head into the meat of their schedule Saturday when they conclude a three game homestand against South Dakota State (2-3). Game time is 2 p.m.
    The Jackrabbits were ranked 18th in the nation in pre-season, but got off to a rough start. They dropped their first three games before outscoring Texas State and S.F. Austin a combined 85-3 in winning their last two games.
    Covington is currently tied with freshman linebacker E.J. Webb for the team lead in tackles with 19, and he has one interception which he got at Coastal Carolina and returned 45 yards.
    As a tailback and cornerback at state Class AAAAA power Brookwood in Snellville, the Eagle senior was ranked as one of Georgia’s top 50 players. However, he opted to sign a pro baseball contract with Pittsburgh. After giving up on baseball he enrolled at Georgia Southern. His first two years were spent as a special teams player and backup fullback before bursting on the scene as a running back last year.
    “I think the transition has been going well,” said Covington. “Things are becoming more second nature, reads are coming faster. It’s getting to be more fun every day.
    “The biggest adjustment has been that you’re on a different side of the ball,” said Covington. “It’s learning to make tackles, learning the different angles, the tackling angles.
    “I miss offense sometimes. It was fun carrying the ball, but defense is fun, too. I like the idea of stopping someone from scoring.”
    Hatcher has carried the ball once, gaining four yards for a first down on a fake punt at Coastal Carolina.
    “Chris brings a lot to the team:  leadership, enthusiasm, intensity,” said Anders. “He is one of the most intense guys I’ve ever coached. He brings a physical state of mind that everybody on the team can feed off of.
    “When we called his number on the fake punt at Coastal you knew it was going to be a first down,” said Anders. “He would have gotten it if it was 4th-and-40. He takes pride in playing his position, and he’s glad to be a Georgia Southern Eagle, He’s the kind of guy you want in the program.”