|Senior Logan Perkins started for three years on the offensive line.
|Josh Earick lettered all four years of high school.
COVINGTON - On the surface, a 6-4 regular season record and falling in the opening round of the state playoffs doesn't appear to be all that impressive considering Covington's track record over the last 15 to 20 years.
But, the fact that the Covington Buccaneers managed to capture those six wins and qualify for the state playoffs for the 10th year in a row and 15th time in the last 16th years was anything short of amazing considering the adversity this team faced in 2014.
Consider, the Buccaneers started two-a-days with 34 players, just four of those being seniors. This after losing 14 talented seniors from a year ago.
Then, before the season even started the Buccs lost their returning starting quarterback, a starting defensive lineman and a starting defensive back. The defensive back would ultimately return to action in week three, but over the remainder of the season the Buccaneers eventually saw eight more players go down to season-ending injuries, one being a senior leader in Robert Gengler and three-year starting junior lineman Ian Fries.
Still, through it all, the Buccaneers persevered while playing as many as nine sophomores and three freshman at times throughout the year - twice occurring in the final two wins of the season against a senior laden National Trail team and in the season finale at Ansonia.
And its those two wins that can be looked at as signs of the potential the Buccaneers have in the future as they came after Covington dropped three straight games to Tri-County North, Miami East and Twin Valley South.
At the time things looked bleak from the outside looking in due to the number of players relegated to wearing street clothes from injuries and the youth that was being forced into action due to those injuries.
But somehow this team stayed the course and gutted out a big 24-14 win over a National Trail team that returned 15 seniors from its 2013 playoff team, including a quarterback that had thrown for over 7,000 yards and nearly 80 touchdowns in his career. Outsized and undermanned, Covington took it to National Trail - something Coach Dave Miller attributes to the attitudes of the kids.
"Our kids have faced so much adversity this season, but their attitudes and effort have never wavered," Miller said after the game. "That's what carried us."
Even in the losses to St. Henry, Tri-County North, Miami East and Twin Valley South, the Buccaneers showcased the grittiness and toughness that can be used to build on for the future.
Against St. Henry, the Buccs fell behind 27-0 at half-time after fumbling three times. Still, the kids continued to battle and played the Redskins even up in the second half.
After running off four straight wins, the Buccaneers then traveled to face unbeaten Tri-County North, a team that would ultimately finish unbeaten in the regular season. The score ended up 36-6, but four key missed opportunities made the difference.
The first one came on the opening drive of the game as Covington jumped off sides on a fourth down attempt by Tri-County North, eventually resulting in a touchdown for the Panthers.
The second mistake came midway through the second quarter as Tri-County North faced a 4th-and-13. Covington blew a coverage and the Panthers converted to keep the drive alive and eventually go up 14-0.
The third missed opportunity came at the end of the half as Covington failed to punch it in from the three and then missed on a field goal attempt.
Then, after cutting the deficit to 21-6, the Buccs again had North facing a fourth-and-short near midfield, but jumped offsides for the second time to give the Panthers a new set of downs that eventually resulted in a score.
"We played right with them, but killed ourselves with mistakes," Miller said.
The same could be said for the Miami East game as Covington twice had the ball inside the Viking ten in the first half, but came away empty handed. Then, twice in the second half Covington had receivers wide open and couldn't convert the attempts into scores.
"We missed a lot of opportunities," Miller said after the game. "But you have to give them (Miami East) credit because they took advantage of our mistakes. That's what good teams do."
The only game it appeared Covington was really outmanned was in the week eight loss at Twin Valley South.
"That was men against boys," said Miller. "They (South) are men. Our kids were in position to make tackles, but we just had a hard time bringing them down. It sure wasn't due to a lack of effort."
It was the effort that kept Covington in the game until two late touchdowns by South sealed the game in the fourth quarter.
But the way the kids fought in that game was a turning point in Miller eyes that these kids could be on the verge of something special in the years to come.
"I'm look out there and I see the size of their kids compared to size and inexperience of our kids and we are only down 26-14 at that point," Miller explained. "They have sixteen seniors, a 210 pound senior fullback, a 190 pound senior quarterback and a big offensive line and our 140 and 150 pound younger kids are hitting them with everything they've got. I realized then how tough these kids are and they won't always be 140 to 150 pounds."
It's that toughness and the attitudes of the kids that ultimately carried them to the wins over National Trail and Ansonia, wins that stamped the Buccs' ticket to the state playoffs for the tenth straight year - an accomplishment that even surprised the Covington faithful.
"I've never seen a Covington team this young and have so many injuries. The fact that we are even in the discussion (for the playoffs) is unbelievable considering everything this team has been through," said a Covington fan after the Ansonia game. "That man (Coach Miller) is the reason why we're even talking playoffs right now."
The Buccs ultimately dropped its playoff game to Lehman Catholic, but it didn't diminish what this team accomplished by any means.
"These kids have overcome so much just to get here," said Miller after the Lehman game. "I didn't want to see my four seniors go out like this because the gave so much to the program. I think a lot of them deserved better than this, but I am so proud of what these kids were able to accomplish."
The Buccs will miss the four seniors (Robert Gengler, Josh Earick, Logan Perkins and Brock Murphy) greatly. But a tone of talent returns in 2015 and the adversity they faced in 2014 will only make them stronger.