|Isaiah Winston was a three-year starter at quarterback for the Buccs.
Since Dave Miller came to Covington as the head football coach he has simplified the game of football and what it takes to be successful. And gradually, over the last five years, the Buccs have made strides in taking a very successful program to the next level.
The 2011 Buccaneers took yet another step, not so much by the result in a first round playoff loss to state power Coldwater, but by maxing out on the effort as a team from day one.
"The attitude was there," said coach Miller. "From day one our senior and junior class, there motto was buy in and you saw that. I think our attitudes in the weight room were there and we've always done that. But we carried it over to the field more. Practices were more competitive. I thought we got more out of the time were were there, really they (practices) weren't as long, but we were more efficient. It showed on Friday night."
Did it ever show as the Buccs had a different swagger, a different confidence and a different pace throughout summer preparation, two-a-days and the three scrimmages against Milton Union, Eaton and Versailles.
It also carried over to the regular season as Covington rolled through the schedule with ten wins and no losses to earn a twelfth playoff birth in thirteen years. Covington's closest game was a week-three slugfest with a highly motivated Bethel team, 17-14.
"Great season," Miller said. "The record may not always show the reality with that, but we accomplished quite a bit. I think we look at our games, we played better defense overall. I thought our special teams did a good job and philosophically we changed. And I think those changes were good for us. The kids responded to it."
Miller attributes the success from 2011 to the commitment of the 40 or so kids on the roster.
"There was a lot more buy in with this group," he said. "I know we fell short in the playoffs, but we have nothing to be ashamed of. We had a nice season overall. I thought it was a great year."
After finishing 10-0 on the season, the Buccs earned the fourth seed in Region 20 of Division 5 football and was pitted against returning state finalist Coldwater in the opening round.
And the Buccs appeared star struck from the outset, but still managed to compete in the early going before two second half touchdowns by the Cavaliers broke the game open.
"I was kind of disappointed with the way we went out against Coldwater," Miller said. "I think in some ways our kids - I don't want to say we backed off, - but they were a little concerned and didn't play to their full potential. That's something (mental toughness) they need to develop between now and next year. It goes back to buying in and believing in what we do. You can't have doubt. Everybody on the team has to buy in and I can't stress that enough. That will take you places."
The six seniors had mental toughness, which can be attributed to the adversity they have faced throughout their football careers - all the way back to their Little Buccs days.
"The seniors from this year are a very special group of kids," Miller praised. "When you look at what they've had to overcome, you talk about overcoming adversity, that's a group that really did that. Starting back in junior high and pee wee, just getting annihilated, you know a lot of guys that were with them quit. Those five or six stuck it out."
And they exceeded all expectations - accomplishing more as a group than recent senior classes due to their leadership and workman-like attitudes. Yes, it was a small senior class, but all six kids played a significant role in four playoff teams and will graduate with 21 varsity letters.
"Just a special group as far as leadership," Miller praised of Isaiah Winston, Darren Clark, Sam Christian, Sam Earick, Brandon Powell and Sam Earick. "You're talking about kids that played - I think we had three four year starters and two or three three year starters - that's a lot of experience and kids that played a lot of football that we're going to miss."
The seniors also leave the program better than when they arrived - a program that Miller feels in on the verge of something special.
But to become special, it will take a group of kids that follow the model left behind by the senior class.
"We lose the six seniors, of course that will be a void to fill," Miller said. "But we're not without kids coming. We have about nine on defense and seven or eight on offense that are returning as starters. We've got some younger kids that hopefully will step up there and never miss a beat. We talked in our end-of-the-year meeting, there is a challenge for these kids to - number one - try and adopt that attitude the seniors are leaving them with and just take it higher."
The attitude of believe in themselves, the system and their teammates. Also believing that there isn't a team out there that the Covington Buccaneers can't compete with.
"We have to do what we did last year and then some, if we are going to make it to that level," Miller emphasized. "I believe we can. Hopefully they (the kids) do to. That's going to be the trick between now and next year, replacing that leadership and having those kids step up and work harder - harder than they ever have in their lives."
Miller and the coaching staff will also do their part to help prepare the Buccs for the next step.
"I think after going through and looking at our techniques and how we practice, I think there are some things we can improve on as coaches.," Miller said. "Just get better at it. Overall, our tackling has to improve. The kids just have to continue to buy in and believe in everything we are doing and I think it's going to carry over."
Over to another successful season for Covington football and hopefully an effort that results into a deep playoff run.