|Senior Tyler Noffsinger put together another memorable season.
The Covington Buccaneers entered the 2010 season with very high expectations and overcame plenty of obstacles to accomplish some of their goals - winning the CCC title and qualifying for the state playoffs were two that were fulfilled.
An 11-1 season is something for the 2010 Buccaneers to be very proud of, but failing to play past the second week of the state playoffs ads fuel to the fire for those who return next year.
"We have the bar set pretty high, and we'll continue to do so" said Covington coach Dave Miller at the annual awards banquet. "What makes Covington so special is there are high expectations. We expect to challenge in our league, make the playoffs and such. The kids expect it and the community expects it."
Expectations are great, but willing to do what it takes to get there is another challenge. And the Buccs are making strides with each passing year.
"The expectation for us as a program is maxing out in our effort," Miller said. "If we can get the kids to come in each day prepared to max out in their effort, everything else will take care of itself. We're making strides, but we've yet to do that on a consistent basis."
Covington is making strides as evident by the off-season participation. There were record numbers in the weight room and conditioning program, which paid dividends as the Buccs fielded its strongest and deepest team in years.
Plus, there has been growth through the youth and junior high programs.
"I'd like to give credit to the coaches in our junior high program and our Little Buccs program for the jobs they do down there working with our younger kids," said Miller. "We (the coaches) were talking about how neat it is to have coaches from every level in our program on the sideline of Friday nights. Those guys are taking a concerted effort to learn all they can about how we do things at the high school level and implement that with the younger kids. That's going to pay huge dividends down the line."
It all makes for an exciting future as the Covington football program looks to capture that ever elusive, ultimate prize - a state championship.
And after a strong summer, there was a strong belief that the 2010 team had as good of a chance as anybody.
Unfortunately, adversity hit the Buccs hard in the Eaton scrimmage as starting quarterback Jake Bitner was lost for the year with an injury. It started a trend where the Buccs lost two defensive starters and an starting offensive lineman before the season even began.
"We don't use injuries as an excuse," Miller said. "But the past three years have been tough on us. I know its an old cliche that you have to learn to overcome adversity, but sooner or later we'll have some luck here with injuries."
To make matters worse for the Buccs, two members of the Covington family lost their battles with cancer in the two days prior to the season opener against New Bremen. Playing with heavy hearts, the Buccs managed to overcome a 21-6 third quarter deficit to beat New Bremen on a last second field goal by Steven Blei.
Covington then rolled over Bethel and Bradford as it appeared the adversity was in the rear view mirror.
But inconsistency began to take over as the Buccs struggled to beat Tri-County North and Miami East, both contests going down to the final possession.
After beating Twin Valley South handily, the Buccs put together arguably their most lackluster effort of the season against winless National Trail, allowing 21 points and over 300 yards of offense to the Blazers. Fortunately, Covington had too much offense of its own and cruised to a 54-21 win.
Needing a statement game in week eight, Covington stormed out to a 21-0 lead over Ansonia, the defending league champions. The Tigers cut the deficit to 21-14 before the Buccs sealed the game with a long touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
The Buccs then showcased just how dominant this team could be with blowout wins over Arcanum and Mississinawa Valley to finish the regular season at 10-0.
"The last time we went 10-0 was in my first year in 2007," Miller said. "That year we stayed relatively healthy and had a nice sized senior class. This year we were able to do it with a lot of injuries and a lot of younger kids on the field. That bodes well for the future."
Covington appeared to be hitting its stride in the first round of the playoffs as it dismantled Ansonia 49-6 in what was arguably the best performance of the season.
"I didn't see that coming," said Miller in regards to the Ansonia game. "Not against a very good football team like Ansonia. I thought we'd be in a dog fight. That just shows how good this team is when they are focused."
Unfortunately, Miller didn't expect to see his team self destruct in the first half against Lehman in the regional semi-final. The Buccs turned the ball over four times and missed on several scoring opportunities in the first half. And the result was a 42-7 halftime deficit.
"Our inconsistency caught up to us in that game," Miller explained. "That's why you have to come in focused and mentally prepared to have your best practice of the season every single day. That's the one thing I think we failed to do this year. We let little things distract us at times and it cost us in the end."
But the kids did showcase the heart of a champion by storming back in the second half in a desperate attempt to get back into the game. The Buccs scored three second half touchdowns, but just couldn't overcome the large deficit.
"That's a credit to the kids because a lot of teams would have been looking for a way out," said Miller. "Our kids never quit and we can build on that."
With 17 letterman returning next year, the Buccs can build on a season that a lot of team goals were achieved.
The key for next year is consistency - not only on Friday nights, but in the Buccs' preparation. If the kids can do that, everything else will fall into place.