|Freshman Joseph Franke lifts during the Lift-A-Thon.
JULY 1, 2016 - COVINGTON
The Lift-A-Thon has been an annual tradition at Covington over the past two decades and first-year coach Ty Cates was excited to continue that tradition and see where his football team is at with just under eight weeks left in preparation for the 2016 season.
And to Cates' pleasure, he found out he has a strong football team as evident by the amount of weight his 40-plus kids were throwing around through the nearly two-hour Lift-A-Thon.
"I've coached at a lot of places and this group just might be the strongest group I've ever coached," said Cates. "I know it's the strongest group of skill kids I've ever had and that says a lot about the work ethic of these kids."
Coach Cates is familiar with Covington football from the outside looking in as he played against the Buccaneers in high school as a running back at Arcanum and coached against them while at Twin Valley South.
But he didn't fully comprehend what he was getting into when he was chosen to carry on the tradition as head football coach following the loss of one of the top coaches in school history in Dave Miller. Miller, who led the Buccaneers to the state playoffs in each of his nine seasons, accepted a head coaching position at Kettering Fairmont over the winter.
"Coach Miller told me I was coming into a good situation, but I didn't fully understand it until I got to know the kids," Cates told the parents who were on hand to watch the Lift-A-Thon. "The first kid I met was Seth Thomas and all he said was 'Let's go, coach. Whatever you want us to do, we'll do'. Then I met some of the other kids and they were the same way. All of the kids bought in from day one."
And it has made the transition very smooth for Cates and the kids as participation, accountability and performance have not wavered from years past.
"I'm so blessed and very proud to be the your coach," Cates told the kids after all of the lifts were tallied and he was preparing to hand out awards to the winners. "You guys have excelled in the first month of the summer and now we need to carry it on throughout the rest of the summer."
Seth Thomas, a senior who could not compete in the Lift-A-Thon due to an injury he expects to recover from, was singled out by Coach Cates for his amazing performances throughout the early part of the summer.
"I want to give a shout out to Seth Thomas," said Cates prior to handing out awards. "If he was able to lift today, he would have won this (Lift-A-Thon) going away. Look at the (record) board. He's up there with the best of the best."
Senior Deron White raised eyebrows with his performance at the Lift-A-Thon by winning the pound-for-pound title and the middleweight class with combined weights that were 6.2 times more than his own body weight. Junior Ethan Herron won the heavyweight class, while sophomore Keringten Martin won the lightweight class and senior Lance Miller won the awards for the most pull-ups and dips.
And even those who didn't earn trophies, many recorded personal bests.
"I'm proud of all of the kids," Cates said. "Of course our upperclassmen performed very well, but you look at our freshmen and the amount of weight those kids put up, that's impressive. This is a stronger group of freshmen we have in here."
The performance by the Buccaneers at the Lift-A-Thon is a great first step, but it's only the beginning when you consider what lies ahead for a team of approximately 45 to 50 players.
"This is a great first step for our kids, but now they have to focus on learning an entirely different offense and defense from what they are accustom too," said Cates. "But I like where we are at right now. The kids have bought in and the effort is there."
And with the way the Buccaneer players have been so far in regards to effort, intensity and accountability, the learning curve with a new system should be narrowed quite a bit.