|The offensive line, led by senior Eli Gerling, will need to perform at a high level for the Buccaneers to reach their goals.
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AUGUST 12, 2018 - COVINGTON
The Covington Buccaneers, who had been riding a wave of 17 state playoff appearances in 18 years prior to a 5-5 campaign in 2017, have been - heading into the 2018 season - overlooked.
Read any local media outlet throughout the area and the Buccaneer football program is an afterthought when it comes to naming the Cross County Conference heavyweights. Miami East, Fort Loramie and Bethel, those are the favorites in the eyes of the local media.
"We don't mind being the underdog," said Covington's third-year coach Tyler Cates. "That's just motivation."
Here's the thing. The better Covington teams over the history of the program have had great senior leadership - kids who are very, very tight as a group - best friends, so to speak.
This senior group, which consists of just eight kids, isn't the most athletically gifted group as some of the senior classes of the past, but they are just as - if not more - determined and committed than many of the senior classes in recent memory.
Consider, after falling short of qualifying for the state playoffs for the thirteenth consecutive year in 2017, Coach Cates set up chairs in the weight room for the departing senior class to address the returning players about what it means to be a Buccaneer. After the seniors communicated their school pride, the juniors (incoming seniors) took their places in the same chairs of the departed seniors.
And that's when junior and soon-to-be-senior Parker Dysinger went off.
"Basically, the short of it, Parker wasn't pleased with how the season went and told the team that we won't go five-and-five again," reflected Cates with purpose in his voice.
Since it was an internal conversation, Cates won't get into the specifics of what was exactly said. But, in a matter of about 30 seconds Parker Dysinger set the tone for the 2018 season.
"The seniors felt last year was embarrassing," Cates said. "They came to me and said we need to hold ourselves more accountable - players, coaches, everybody. I have to give these kids credit because they are aware of the areas we need to improve. These seniors have been about 'BROTHERHOOD', where we are all in this together."
Still, there were some hurdles along the way with kids who may not have been what you would call "fully committed" in the beginning. But as the days went by, those same kids have eventually bought in and it started to show during seven-on-seven scrimmages against Sidney, Anna, Lehman, Versailles and Greenville.
Then, through two-a-days and in full contact scrimmages against Milton-Union and Eaton, the Buccaneer roster continued to raise the level of intensity and the result was an elevation in play. The defense has kept opposing offenses out of the end zone and the offense has continued to improve with each snap of the football.
"We are focusing more on execution and getting things right in practice before we move on to another play," Cates said. "As a staff, we've simplified things for the kids so they can just play without having to think so much."
And the kids have put in the work over the off-season and have embraced the simplified philosophy Coach Cates and his staff have implemented - a philosophy revolved around going all out on every play.
"Our kids have worked their tails off," explained Cates. "They've embraced our coaching and have strived to get better. The mission is to get eleven guys to fly to the football and play to the whistle on every play. It sounds simple, but not very many teams do that. We've worked extremely hard to establish those habits."
Covington lost eight seniors from a year ago with one being a four-year letterman and four being three-year letter winners, so there are significant shoes to fill.
But with the majority of the roster returning and a solid freshman class joining the ranks, Cates feels his team has the potential to be a very good football team.
"It's not an excuse, but we had a lot of younger kids in the lineup last year and we made some critical mistakes at inopportune times in some very close games," Cates said. "We were right there with Fort Loramie, Miami East and Bethel and one play here or there could have made a difference in each one of those games. Our youth and inexperience showed, but lot of these younger kids are a year older and year more experienced now. If we can continue to improve and be selfless as a team, we can be pretty darn good."
Returning with starting experience are seniors Parker Dysinger, Ian Wilson, Gavin McReynolds, Sam Pritchard and Eli Gerling, along with juniors Cade Schmelzer, Jesse Fisher, Gage Kerrigan, Andrew Cates, Teague Deaton, Alex Shaffer and Nate Alexander. Plus, several other Buccaneers return as lettermen; senior Isiah Curl, juniors Dalton Weer, Alex Shaffer, Kadin Presser, Austin Flick, Josh Latimer and sophomores Trentin Alexander and Duncan Cooper.
"We're still a relatively young football team, but we are deeper at a lot of positions than the last couple of years," said Cates. "Many of these kids have played a lot of football."
Yes, this 2018 Buccaneer squad is still very young with just eight seniors out of fifty-two kids. But, this group is more than motivated to get the Covington football program back to where it was in 17 of the past 19 years - back to winning conference championships and challenging the best in the state of Ohio in the state playoffs.
"The expectations at Covington are always high," Cates summarized. "This year is no different."
And if Covington accomplishes those high expectations in 2018, one can look back at a 30-second rant by Parker Dysinger as the tone-setter for another great season of Buccaneer football.