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When you lose players like Gene Studebaker, Seth Mohler, Corey Patty, Drew Craft and Bryant Hale to graduation, the opposition tends to think the cupboard is bare for the defending Cross County Conference Champions and that makes them ripe for the pickin'.
Combine those losses with a coaching change, the rest of the league is chomping at the bit to get a crack at the Covington Buccaneers - a team that has dominated the league with at least a share of the conference title in seven out of the past eight years.
But, new Buccaneer coach Dave Miller doesn't see the cupboard bare at all.
"We have the potential to be a very good football team," said Miller of his team. "But, we also have the potential to be a very bad team. By that I mean, we have the talent. But it's about attitude, effort and execution. If we play as a team first, give maximum effort and execute on every play, we'll be a darn good football team."
Attitude, effort and execution are three things Miller has been preaching to the kids since the first day of camp.
"For us to get to that next level, we have to do those three things well," he said. "We have to put the team needs before our individual needs, give maximum effort on every play and execute the game plan."
The game plan will be different than in years past as the Buccs have become known as a big play, high scoring team. Miller sees a different path to success.
"Our plan is to pound the ball and put together 10 to 15 play drives," Miller described. "If we have the ball on offense for long sustaining drives, we'll keep the other team's offense off the field. It will also be demoralizing for the other team."
Much of the success of the Buccs will depend on the offensive line, which consists of three players who have seen significant time on the line in the past - seniors JJ Thompson, Jake Wise and sophomore Adam Craft. Throw in returning letter winner Ben Christian, sophomore Teddy Hale and freshman Josh Boehringer, the Buccs' line looks to be in pretty good shape.
"In this offense, a lot rides on the offensive line," Miller said. "They have to open up holes for our backs and quarterback to get upfield."
Recently, the Buccaneers have had some talented backs who have rewrote school record books. This year, the Buccs have numerous backs who will share in the workload, including seniors Jordy Burelison, Logan Hall and Brock Iddings and sophomore Garret Clark.
Due to the talent and the style of offense the Buccaneers run, it's conceivable Covington may not have an individual runner break 1,000 yards this season.
"We have a number of kids who will carry the load," explained Miller. "One week our fullback could run for 150 yards and the next week it could be a halfback. It's conceivable that we could have three or four guys run for over 500 yards this season."
Quarterback is a position of uncertainty as to who will be behind the controls as there are two very capable candidates.
"Man, it's a tough decision to make," Miller said. "Bill Dickey and Cookie Long have done a nice job at quarterback and both are capable of running this offense. It's probably going to come down to which one can help us most in another area, like receiver or in the backfield."
When the Buccs do go to the air, they'll have some capable targets on the edges in returning juniors Andy Sparks, Logan Woloch and Quentin Layman as well as sophomore Jordy Meyer. Plus, the addition of junior Clark Manson gives the Buccs another receiving threat.
Defensively, the Buccs should look similar to what they have been in the past as Doug Swartz remains as defensive coordinator.
Much like the offense, the success of the defense will ride on the lineman in the trenches.
Fortunately for Covington, it has some pretty darn good players returning from last year in seniors Logan Hall, JJ Thompson, and Jake Wise. Also, with sophomores Teddy Hale, Adam Craft and Jordy Meyer moving up and the addition of freshman Josh Boehringer, the defensive line looks to be solid.
The Buccs have an all-state candidate at linebacker in senior Jordy Burelison to lead the defense. Sophomore Ben Christian and freshman Josh Boehringer are both possible starters at outside linebacker.
The secondary also returns some experience with senior Brock Iddings, and juniors Logan Woloch, Andy Sparks and Cookie Long. Senior Bill Dickey, sophomore Garrett Clark and freshman Jake Bitner will all likely see action as well.
"Like I said, we have a lot of talent on the roster," said Miller. "But, talent only gets you so far. Being mentally prepared and ready to give 100% every play is what makes the difference."
Of those on the roster, Miller is still looking for those willing to step up in leadership rolls.
"We have a few guys who are emerging as leaders," Miller stated. "We'd like to have everyone step up in leadership rolls. When you have 11 to 22 guys expecting to be the one to make the play in adverse situations, then you've really got something."
The Buccs have the talent and the ability for another run at a CCC title and return trip to the state play-offs. But, as coach Miller has indicated, to get to the next level the Buccs will have to take their own game to another level.
"What it boils down to is we have to prepare ourselves mentally and physically for that next level," Miller explained. "The key is focusing on how we can get there. We have to take care of the little things and everything else will take care of itself."
As it has been over the last two seasons, the source of inspiration remains senior Dan "The Man" Rindler. He played the game the way Coach Miller hopes his 2007 Buccs play the game - with a team-first attitude, effort on every single play and with passion. Although #28 was a freshman then, he took his own game to a new level with his attitude and effort.
Hopefully the 2007 Buccaneers do the same.