|Senior Ian Wilson drops back into pass protection against Arcanum.
|Senior Dylan Burns scores against Bradford.
Character isn't revealed with things are great. It's revealed by how you handle the rough times - how you handle adversity.
Looking back at how much adversity the 2018 Buccaneers faced and how well they handled it shows what this team was made of.
Coming off of last season's 5-5 record and the first non-playoff season since 2004, the Covington Buccaneers were looking to reestablish the brand of excellence the program has been known for over the years.
And the tone was set in the final team meeting last fall when senior Parker Dysinger addressed the returning players about the expectations for the 2018 season.
"Basically, the short of it, Parker wasn't pleased with how last season went and told the team that we won't go five-and-five again," reflected Covington coach Tyler Cates. "The seniors felt last year was embarrassing. They came to me and said we need to hold ourselves more accountable - players, coaches, everybody. I have to give these kids credit because they are aware of the areas we need to improve. These seniors have been about 'BROTHERHOOD', where we are all in this together."
With just eight seniors of the roster, the fortunes of the Buccaneers would be determined by leadership as the remainder of the approximately 50 kids on the team were youngsters.
And throughout the summer and and pre-season scrimmages, the Buccaneers appeared to be a team well of their way to accomplishing their goals of reestablishing dominance in the Cross County Conference and returning to the state playoffs after the one-hear hiatus.
Impressive showings against Milton-Union, Eaton and Anna in the three full contact scrimmages had the Buccaneers confident heading into the season opener against St. Henry.
Unfortunately, Covington committed four turnovers and were held to just 98 yards of total offense against a stout St. Henry defense en route to a 22-0 defeat.
The following week against Minster, who was the defending state champions in Division VII, Covington got out to a fast start by scoring on a short run by Brayden Wiggins, but four interceptions proved costly in a 39-26 defeat.
The bottom seemed to fall out on Covington in the league opener at Fort Loramie as the Buccaneers were mistake prone once again in a frustrating 33-14 defeat in a game that ultimately determined the CCC title.
Sitting at 0-3 after such high expectations, the Covington Buccaneers were at a crossroads. This team could pack it in or it could buckle down and show championship heart when it looked at the time as though the state playoffs were a pipe dream.
"You either get better or you get worse," Cates said. "We want to get better - and we will get better. We'll use this to get better and everything will work out. Control what we can control."
Fortunately the team did buckle down and fight through the adversity. It started with a 45-8 shellacking of Tri-County North and a 24-6 win over Arcanum to set up a huge showdown with Miami East - who was the pre-season favorite to win the league championship.
And the game was a microcosm of Covington's season where the Buccaneers faced several adverse situations and were able to respond.
The big response came after Miami East took a 17-13 lead with 6:31 left in the game as Covington went of a four-minute drive by running the ball into the heart of a very good Miami East defense. It led to a game-winning touchdown pass with just over two-minutes left.
"It's one of the greatest victories I've had because of all of the adversity we've faced this year," said Cates. "I know there are a lot of doubters out there, but wins like this one makes it all worth it."
The big win over Miami East was the boost in confidence Covington needed and the Buccaneers ran the table by throttling Bethel 54-7, Bradford 53-2, Twin Valley South 50-0, and National Trail 40-0 to finish with a 7-3 overall record and a 7-1 record in the CCC - good for a second place tie with Ansonia in the league standings.
Plus, it qualified Covington for the state playoffs - a goal that was set a year ago by the senior class of Parker Dysinger, Gavin McReynolds, Sam Pritchard, Isiah Curl, Ian Wilson, Eli Gerling, Garrett Warner and Dylan Burns.
"I don't know if I've coached a better group of kids who have been able to handle this much adversity," praised Cates of his eight seniors. "You want to see kids maximize their potential and this senior class has maxed out. They've stayed hungry and focused and I'm really proud of this group. This senior class is blue collar, put your head down and get after it."
Covington saw its season end the following week to Lima Central Catholic, but the fact that this team managed to stick together after a rough start proved this was a team of character.
SCHOOL RECORDS SET IN 2018:
Parker Dysinger - 30 tackles for a loss in a season
Parker Dysinger - 24 tackles in a game (Tied Dylan Owens from 2012)
Cade Schmelzer - 358 passing yards in a game
Andrew Cates - 209 receiving yards in a game
ALL CROSS COUNTY CONFERENCE SELECTIONS:
First-Team Offense: Cade Schmelzer, Quarterback
First-Team Defense: Parker Dysinger, Linebacker - Brayden Wiggins, Linebacker - Gage Kerrigan, Defensive Line - Andrew Cates, Defensive Back
Second-Team Offense: Ian Wilson, Offensive Line - Jesse Fisher, Offensive Line - Eli Gerling, Offensive Line
Second-Team Defense: None
Special Mention: Gavin McReynolds, Duncan Cooper, Teague Deaton, Trentin Alexander