|Younger players like sophomore Andrew Cates will need to contribute at a high level.
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AUGUST 13, 2017 - COVINGTON
Fifty kids will be in uniform for the Covington Buccaneers this coming season, which leads to another campaign of high expectations.
"Fifty kids, it's hard to be upset about that with twenty-one sophomores and fourteen freshman," said Covington coach Tyler Cates, who led the Buccaneers to an 11-1 record a year ago in his first season at the helm. "Thirty-five of our fifty kids are underclassman - so the future looks bright at Covington and I'm pretty excited about this season."
Covington lost a very talented an experienced senior class from last season, but Cates is confident his team will be able to reload thanks to the talent returning to the roster - including eight seniors.
"This group is extra motivated," said Cates of the senior class. "They believe nobody is counting on them to be as good because of losing thirteen seniors (from last year), so that gives them an extra motivation, a chip on their shoulder."
Key returning seniors are Ethan Herron (RB/DB), Ty Freeman (SB/QB/DB), Zach Parrett (WR/DB), Bowen Swank (OL/DL) and Joe Schmelzer (FB/TE/LB). All are multi-year letter winners and returning starters.
"Ethan, Ty, Bowen and some of the other seniors have done a good job of helping the younger kids and giving them advise on what it takes to play at the varsity level," said Cates. "The seniors know they will need the younger guys to step up in order for us to have a successful season and they've done a good job providing that leadership to the younger kids."
And the leadership began taking shape way before mandatory practices as the seniors organized players only practice sessions throughout the offseason. Much of that was spearheaded by Ethan Herron.
"Knowing what you are doing before you go into camp and practices, that helps us out a lot," said the senior running back and defensive back who has lettered in each of his first three years of high school ball. "We can go through practices more fluently and we don't have to waist time teaching the younger kids how to run the plays. Us players getting together on our own really helped a lot."
The hard work and extra preparation has put a young Covington team in the right mindset of facing a much tougher schedule with the addition of Minster and Fort Loramie as opponents to go along with traditional tough opponents in St. Henry, Miami East, Tri-County North and a host of other quality teams in the Cross County Conference.
"That's something that will definitely help us," said Cates in regards being battle tested should the Buccs make the playoffs. "I have my theories on why the MAC does so well and I think it's the power in numbers and the competition week in and week out they have. Now our numbers are increasing and we have a tougher schedule."
And Cates doesn't see any easy games on the schedule.
"St. Henry is a great team and so is Minster, who is coming off of a state final," Cates continued. "Fort Loramie is a tough team, Miami East is always tough and with (Jason) Schondelmyer going back to Arcanum, they're going to be better. I think the league is getting tougher, our schedule is getting tougher and I think that's going to help us in the future to do what we want to do - which is go farther in the playoffs and win a state championship."
The Buccs are hopeful they are headed in that direction even though there will be a lot of new faces inside the helmets on Friday nights. The goals always remain the same.
"Playoffs is obviously number one," said Herron in regards to the team goals. "Going undefeated, that's what we've always done in the past. But the one big goal is we want to try and make it farther in the post season."
The path to accomplish those goals are much tougher than in previous seasons due to a stiffer competition in the regular season schedule and the fact that there are several unknowns due to the youth on the roster increases the challenge.
But Cates and the Buccaneers are looking forward to taking on each challenge head on.
"We're excited," he said. "I like where we are right now as a team and I'm anxious to see how the kids progress throughout the year. It's going to be exciting to watch."
It all starts on Friday, August 25th at St. Henry.