|Sophomore lineman Carl Lankford gets set to lower the boom during a full contact drill Thursday morning.
AUGUST 7, 2014 - COVINGTON
"IT" has become an annual tradition since Dave Miller arrived in 2007 as the head football coach of the Covington Buccaneers.
"IT" has also become a popular attraction for parents, kids and supporters of the program who want to get their "football fix" under the lights weeks before the season actually starts.
And more importantly, "IT" has become a night the players look forward too every year - a night where they can showcase the hard work they've put in since the previous season came to a close - "HARD WORK" that is conducted without an audience inside the weight room in the wee hours of the morning and in camps on the practice fields that are surrounded by corn fields.
"IT" is the annual "MIDNIGHT HIT" - where the kids head out to Smith Field under the lights to strap on the helmets and shoulder pads for a brief few minutes to knock the snot out of each other - unleashing the bottled up energy that has built up over a summer of blood, sweat and tears.
The first physical contact of the season takes place exactly at midnight on the official day the OHSAA permits teams across the state to hit.
This year, Coach Miller - who is always looking for new ways to get fans and classmates of the players involved - changed things up by allowing those in attendance to participate in the pre-hit warmup. It's something Miller hopes will carry on throughout the season, hopefully increasing the participation of the student section and the younger kids in the football program on Friday nights.
"We want to try and get our student section and the younger kids in our program involved, because our kids feed off of that emotion on Friday nights," said Miller. "I liked the participation we had here tonight (at the Midnight Hit) from not only the students, but the parents too. We may have to rethink how we want to do that on Friday night to keep the parents involved."
After the warm-up, the 34 kids in Buccaneer practice uniforms resembled caged animals as the countdown to the first full contact hit took place. And as the clock ticked down, the entire crowd counted down to zero - which is when seniors Robert Gengler and Logan Perkins exploded on each other. The dual turned out to be a stalemate, but the tone was set for the remaining players as they received their opportunities to hit.
"I think getting everyone involved really amped up our kids," Miller explained. "The kids unloaded on each other, which makes you worry a little bit about injuries. Fortunately we came away from this healthy."
The pads were cracking and the intensity at the "Midnight Hit" was at an all-time high. Kids challenged each other and battled to the whistle during each confrontation.
And in the end, Coach Miller was happy with what he saw.
"The kids were like caged animals, really," he said. "If they can bring that intensity to practice every day from here on out and continue to improve each day, we'll be ready to go in week one. It's just a matter of taking steps forward and consistently improving."
Which is what the Buccs did Thursday morning - at the "Midnight Hit".