|Tyler Cates is all smiles after being hired as the 16th coach in Covington football history in 2016.
MARCH 21, 2021 - COVINGTON
The Covington football program has a rich tradition of success in its 74-year history of the modern era dating back to 1947.
The Buccaneers have had 55 winning seasons, won 30 league titles, qualified for the state playoffs 24 times, reached the regional finals six times, were state semifinalists three times (1979, 1980, 1985), was state runner-up in 1979 and were named poll champions four times (1960,1973, 2006 and 2016).
The success is due to the many outstanding coaches Covington has been blessed to have gracing the sideline - coaches who put their own stamp on the program in their own ways.
The latest of Covington’s coaches to have an impact on the program is Tyler Cates, who after five years at the Buccaneer helm has accepted an opportunity to tackle a new challenge in turning the Vandalia-Butler program around.
Cates arrived in Covington in March of 2016 as the 16th head football coach in program history. He took over an already successful program from Dave Miller, who left for Kettering Fairmont after compiling an 86-20 record from 2007 through 2015.
Fully aware of the high expectations at Covington, the confidence Cates had in his coaching abilities was very apparent as he bonded with the players from the outset. He developed a trust and established expectations, which led the Buccaneers to an 11-1 record in his first year at the helm.
What made that season special was the fact that Cates instilled a completely different offensive and defensive system than what Covington had implemented for nearly a decade prior to his arrival. He was able to get the kids to buy into his system very quickly and the team managed to go unbeaten throughout the regular season and were named AP Poll Champions.
It was just the fourth time in program history the Buccaneers were awarded a poll championship - the others being in 1960, 1973 and 2006.
Unfortunate injuries derailed the Buccaneers during the post season with a second round loss to Fort Recovery, but the foundation was established for a successful tenure.
In Cates’ second year the schedule was beefed up dramatically with the addition of Minster and Fort Loramie to go along with an already tough St. Henry team in the season opener. The Buccaneers, who were a young squad that year, finished 5-5 and failed to qualify for the state playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Still a young squad in 2018 with just eight seniors, Cates led the Buccaneers to a 7-4 record and a return to the state playoffs. Despite losing in the first round of the playoffs to a very good Lima Central Catholic team, there was a sense of a very bright future due to the roster numbers increasing on an annual basis.
Youth turned into experience and depth in 2019 and Covington put together a memorable season that reached the regional final for the first time since 2012.
Covington finished 8-2 during the regular season with the two blemishes on the record being close losses to Minster and Fort Loramie in weeks two and four.
The Buccaneers began to gel together as a team in the second half of the season leading to increased expectations for a great post-season run.
Covington opened the playoffs with a 33-27 victory over Worthington Christian on the friendly confines of Smith Field and then defeated Chillicothe Southeastern 36-20 a week later in the regional semifinal.
Unfortunately, season-ending injuries to seniors Andrew Cates and Brayden Wiggins, who were both two-way starters, proved to be too much to overcome in a regional final loss to Mechanicsburg.
Much like in Cates’ first year in 2016, the unfortunate injuries left Buccaneer fans wondering just how deep into the state playoffs the team would have been able to go if fully healthy.
More adversity struck the Buccaneers (and every other program in the state) in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. The summer lifting program had to be modified to accommodate social distancing measures and the uncertainty of whether the season would even be played was in the back of everyones mind until the first and only scrimmage at Versailles on August 21.
Ultimately, the season was played even though the game against National Trail was cancelled due to COVID. In the end the Buccaneers finished with a 5-5 record, which was a credit to Cates and his kids in what was unusual times.
In the end Tyler Cates finished his coaching career at Covington with a 38-18 overall record, one league title and three state playoff appearances.
He led the Buccaneers through some tough times with unfortunate injuries and the unpredictability of COVID.
Cates will go down in history in a long line of outstanding coaches Covington has been blessed to have.
Unfortunately, we never really got to witness Cates’ program at full strength because of the unfortunate injuries at inopportune times - and COVID.
“Thank You” Tyler Cates for five memorable years and the best of luck in your future opportunity.
There will always be echos on the east end of Smith Field of Cates blirting out to his players after a big win… “How ‘bout them Buccs!”