WINFIELD — Ask John Covert how many carries are enough carries for him in Winfield’s offense, or how many might be too many, and he’s got a ready answer.
“Well, it’s whatever wins us the game,’’ said Covert, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound battering ram of a running back who doubles as an All-State linebacker.
“The past two Logan games, I carried the ball 40-plus times and that won us the game. So when we win the game, the amount of carries I’ve had, that’s enough.’’
Covert comes into his senior season as perhaps one of the busiest running backs statewide in Class AA, averaging nearly 24 carries over the 19 games he’s started full-time at running back for the Generals.
Sometimes, the numbers are large. Last season, during a 70-34 victory versus Cardinal Conference rival Logan, Covert carried 43 times for 287 yards and four touchdowns. As a sophomore, it was 39 rushing attempts for 304 yards and a school-record seven TDs in a 64-32 win against those same Wildcats.
Other times, Covert’s carries aren’t so ample, but he still brings the hammer from his linebacking position — the spot where programs like VMI, Marshall and James Madison are giving him a look. He’s led the Generals in tackles each of the past three seasons, last year piling up 95 total stops (45 solo, 31 assists, 17 tackles for loss, two quarterback sacks). That was good enough to earn an All-State first-team selection at linebacker.
“John was a starter from Day 1 as a freshman on the  team that was really good,’’ said Winfield coach Craig Snyder of an 8-4 squad that racked up the team’s most wins since 2000.
It helps to have Covert’s sense of physicality when running the ball out of the Generals’ power formations or charging through the line to make a tackle. It also helps to have his mindset.
“I think the way we play the game,’’ Covert said, “we have speed, we have toughness and we take strength — and with those three aspects, whenever you carry the ball for a team like Winfield, that’s what you have to bring to the table. I’m not the fastest kid in the world, but I’m strong and I’m tough. And if I want it more than you [I’ll succeed], because all we need is 10 yards.
“If I’m successful, that makes the team successful. If I’m successful, that also opens up opportunities for other backs to be successful. Because if they start keying off me, somebody else like Carson Crouch will be able to take that and run with it because they’re expecting me to get the ball.’’
Crouch, a receiver-wingback, and Malakai Woodard, a running back, are other integral parts of the Winfield attack who will also return this season. However, when the Generals line up in either their Ram formation or Soldier formation — both offshoots of the single wing — expect Covert to get his share of the carries. Snyder estimates that Covert gets anywhere from 60 to 80% of his touches out of those power looks.
“I don’t want John to carry the ball 40 times a game,’’ Snyder said, “because Malakai will be in the backfield with him most of the time and he is the kind of kid who can handle maybe not the same number of carries, but Malakai can pound the ball and power a little bit. So it’s not going to all be just John, but if it’s third-and-1, fourth-and-1, John’s going to run power.
“John is perfect for power and he’s really carried the ball more in power than anyone over the time frame I’ve used it, and people know that. You know he’ll step in there and be in shape. Guys rally around a player like that, and he takes pride in doing things the right way.’’
Last year, Covert ran the ball 228 times for 1,151 yards and 21 touchdowns and also caught 10 passes for 137 yards and another score as the Generals made the AA playoffs, losing to eventual runner-up Fairmont Senior 63-34 in the first round. In his sophomore season, he carried 221 times for 1,184 yards and 16 TDs, nice numbers considering he sat out on offense two games and played only on defense while nursing an injury.
But Covert wasn’t always a workhorse in the Generals’ backfield. As a freshman, he and Ethan Raines served as the team’s “sniffers,’’ the running backs who did the dirty work, blocking nearly every down in the team’s straight-ahead power sets. Snyder said Covert caught his eye even back then as one of the strongest players he’s ever coached.
“It was a rite of passage there a little bit,’’ Snyder said. “That sniffer back could easily be an athletic guard for me because all he’s doing is blocking. He would work in practice as our ‘F,’ which is a running back position, but he didn’t get to carry it in games. Once in a blue moon, he carried the ball.’’
The Generals ran the ball 440 times in 2017, Covert’s freshman season, but he managed just one carry. Somehow, you get the notion that he didn’t mind. Just ask him which side of the ball he prefers to play.
“Defense,’’ Covert said without hesitation. “I prefer delivering the hit. But even on offense, you can still deliver the hit. You just have to have a different mentality.’’