|Senior Zane Barnes returns for his third season as a starter for the Buccaneers.
JULY 25, 2016 - COVINGTON
Last Friday the Covington Buccaneers concluded their first summer under new coach Ty Cates with the traditional running of forty four-forties - a brutal drill of sprints each player must complete in order to earn the privilege of wearing a black and white uniform on Friday nights.
And what was symbolic of how hard the 48 kids worked over the summer, each and every one of them conquered the challenge.
"That's something that was started here in the past and it has become a tradition," said Cates of the forty four-forties. "It's something the seniors wanted to continue and I'm all for it. It's a badge of honor, where it's an unwritten rule you have to do this before you are officially on the team."
The fact that every player who participated in the summer program conquered the challenge reaffirms Cates' feeling about his team heading into the seven-day break before returning for two-a-days in August.
"That just shows these kids are ready to go," he said. "We had unbelievable participation this summer with all forty-eight kids being here. Everyone from top to bottom has bought in and has worked hard to get better."
And Cates credits the senior class for setting the tone.
"We have a great senior class and they've bought in from day one," Cates continued. "They've set the tone, holding themselves and the underclassman accountable when it comes to effort, attitude and accountability. That makes our job as coaches much easier because we can focus on coaching football."
Which has been beneficial in helping the Buccaneers pick up a new system much quicker than Cates expected.
"We are much further along in the new system than what I expected we would be at this point," said Cates. "The kids have been very coachable and willing to learn, which has made the transition easier than I expected. We get better and better every day."
Still, the Buccaneers have a long way to go before week one.
"The goal in two-a-days is for us to get everything down to where it becomes second nature - to where we have eleven guys playing as one cohesive unit in all phases of the game," Cates explained. "Offensively, we have to get our timing down and clean up some things up front - and that will all come with more reps. Defensively, we have to play faster, understand our roles better - play more instinctive. We're still thinking too much, but I'm confident we'll react quicker as we get more and more reps."
Covington returns just 20 players from a year ago, but 13 of those players are returning lettermen. Also, several players have returned to football, including two who have lettered in the past.
Combine that with 21 freshmen, Covington heads into two-a-days with high expectations.
"The potential is there," Cates said. "But that's going by how we look in shorts and a helmet. We haven't been in pads yet, so we have a lot to learn."
Once the kids return from the break, they will have just under four weeks and three scrimmages against Milton Union, Eaton and Anna to prepare for the opening night against St. Henry on August 26th.
"I'm excited to see how we do in those scrimmages," said Cates. "You can't ask for better competition than what we'll see from Milton, Eaton and Anna. We'll learn where our deficiencies are and have an opportunity to address it before our first game."
For Cates and Covington, it has been a great summer.
But the real challenges come when the pads go on.