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COVINGTON - The Covington Buccaneers enter the 2015 season fresh off a 6-4 regular season record and a 10th straight state playoff birth in a season filled with injuries and youth.
And with Covington's tradition of success, many outsiders would consider the 2014 campaign as a down year, but those close to the program considered the season a huge success considering the adversity the team faced throughout the year.
"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.
Miller credited the kids.
"The kids where the main reason for our success last season." he said. "They bought in and never wavered in spite of a lot of adversity. That's pretty special."
That was then and this is now, and the Buccaneers are looking for bigger and better things in 2015 as the majority of the roster returns with experience.
"We have the potential to be very good," Miller said as his team entered the week off before two-a-days in late July. "All of the kids have been here in the summer. All of the kids are fully invested."
Covington's roster consists of 32 kids, lower than in the past few years, but Miller isn't concerned with numbers.
"Yeah, we have 32 kids, but all of these kids can play," he said after the annual Midnight Hit. "And the kids are tight too. There's a brotherhood here between these kids. They pull for each other and encourage one another. I really like our team chemistry, especially considering we are this early in two-a-days. A lot of that team chemistry was developed over the summer because they all were invested from the beginning."
From last year Covington lost four seniors who meant so much to the success of the program during their time in the black and white. The Buccaneers also lost three lettermen who chose to pursue other interests.
But what the Buccaneers do return for the 2015 season excites Miller.
"Would we like to have more kids, absolutely," Miller continued. "But hey, even with 32 kids we have some depth there. We have a lot of kids back from last year and some freshmen who can play. Where we are lacking, in a sense, are the numbers at the reserve level."
Among the 32 kids, 10 are seniors and 10 are juniors, most of which are returning lettermen. There is a small sophomore class of four, but two lettered a year ago as freshmen.
The remainder of the roster consists of eight freshmen who are hungry for action.
"I like our younger kids for the way they have bought in from the beginning," Miller said. "Some of our younger kids are pushing for playing time on Friday nights."
With a balanced blend of experienced veterans and hungry rookies, the Buccs look to climb back to the top of the Cross County Conference standings - a place Covington has been in five of Miller's eight years as head football coach.
Covington also looks to qualify for the state playoffs for the 11th straight year and the 20th time in school history.
"At Covington, we expect to go 10-0 and make the playoffs," senior Coleman Ryan said at Covington's annual football camp. "At a lot of schools, making the playoffs is a dream. Here, it's an expectation."
And that expectation continues in 2015.