AUGUST 18, 2020 - COVINGTON
The Covington Buccaneers have earned their way into the state playoffs in 19 of the last 21 years and are assured to make it 20 for 22 should the 2020 season play out without interruption.
That’s because the OHSAA has shortened the regular season to six games and will allow every team in the state an opportunity to play in a lengthened post season. This is due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the nation.
No, it’s not the way the Buccaneers wish to qualify for the state playoffs - they would rather earn it. Still, there are no complaints because at this time in history it's a blessing to have an opportunity just to play any type of football game.
"The kids just want to play and us coaches want to be around these kids as long as we can," said Covington coach Tyler Cates, who enters his fifth year at the helm with three playoff appearances under his belt. "That's why we come in and work like we do."
The work over the summer had different challenges than in years past due to the unpredictable nature of the COVID situation. But Covington has accepted each challenge.
“We have established a culture here of controlling what we can control,” said Cates. “In the situation everyone is in (with COVID), that’s all you can do is focus on the things you can control.”
What Cates and his Buccaneers have been able to control is maintaining a positive mindset throughout the summer in preparation for the upcoming season.
“Overall, our kids have done a great job of coming in and staying focused on working hard,” Cates said. “I credit our coaching staff and our eleven seniors for that. This senior class doesn’t want to be the team who underachieves.”
Covington fields a roster of 41 kids with 11 of those being seniors.
But, the Buccaneers did lose 16 seniors from a year ago - many who were multi-year starters.
“It’s always tough when you lose a senior class like that, but we have a tradition of reloading year after year,” Cates explained. “We know what we have in the kids who saw a lot of playing time on varsity last year, but we’ll need some of the younger kids to step up and mature in a hurry.”
Much of that maturity from the youngsters will be needed to emerge inside the trenches. Fortunately, Cates sees a lot of potential from many of the juniors and sophomores.
“We are finally seeing some younger kids come into the program who have some size,” Cates stated. “Back when I played at Arcanum, it seemed like Covington always had huge linemen. But recently we’ve had some undersized kids who overcame their lack of size with relentless effort. Now we have some bigger kids who can dominate if they play with the same effort and intensity Covington kids are known for.”
Cates sees the potential developing on the practice field, but hasn’t had the opportunity to see his big boys compete against someone in a different color jersey.
“That hurt us this summer, not being able to see how our younger kids react against other teams in adverse situations,” Cates continued. “You can try to gauge what you have in practice, but you really don’t know what you have until you test yourself against competition you don’t see every day. But, every team is in the same situation we are.”
There are a lot of unknowns with just one week left in preparation for the season opener against Bethel next Friday. This makes the competition in practice that much more important each and every day.
In the mix at quarterback is senior Cael Vanderhorst, along with juniors Jensen Wagoner and Cameron Kirker. All have seen action at the junior varsity level.
The running back position is in good hands with the return of seniors Trentin Alexander and Duncan Cooper, as is the fullback position with the return of senior Gavin Swank and junior Kenny Wise.
The slot back position is also a strength with senior Deacon Shields and sophomore DeAnthony Bennett. The wide receiver position is deep with seniors Tyler Owens, Jakob Hamilton, David Robinson, Devin Newhouse, junior Landon LaPoint and sophomore Banks Koffer.
Up front the Buccaneers will be led by seniors Grant Babylon and Clayton Stephan, along with juniors Rickey Stephan and Jake Dilley. Sophomores who will be in the mix are Bryce Staudt, Cameron Ha, Corey Turner, Ethan Gerling, Ryan Rohr and Ryan Remley.
Defensively the Buccaneers will look to replace its entire secondary. The potential is there with seniors Tyler Owens, Cael Vanderhorst, Jakob Hamilton, Deacon Shields and David Robinson along with juniors Landon LaPoint and Cameron Kirker and sophomores DeAnthony Bennett and Banks Koffer.
The middle of the Buccaneer defense will be strong with inside linebackers Gavin Swank (senior) and Connor Sindelir (junior). The outside linebackers see the return of senior Duncan Cooper and juniors Kenny Wise and Jensen Wagoner.
In the defensive front the Buccaneers will be led by seniors Trentin Alexander, Grant Babylon and Clayton Stephan and the committee of juniors Jake Dilley and Rickey Stephan, along with sophomores Bryce Staudt, Corey Turner, Ethan Gerling, Ryan Rohr, and Ryan Remley.
“We’re excited to get the season started,” Cates said. “These kids have worked hard and deserve to see what they’ve been working towards to come to fruition.”
As of now, there is hope the 2020 season will happen. Hopefully it goes on without interruption.
“That’s all we are focused on, is playing,” Cates emphasized. “Never has the meaning of playing each day and every play as if it were your last meant as much as it does now. These kids understand that - especially the seniors. They don’t want to look back with any regrets.”