By Ben Robinson
EATON — All forty-nine players on the Covington football team have been programmed to do things a certain way since they were old enough to begin the sport of football – which is the ground-and-pound, smash mouth football of executing a running game.
Which is why it’s going to take some time for the kids to make the transition to more of a wide open philosophy – a philosophy that requires different techniques when it comes to blocking, route running and reading a defense.
But Covington made strides offensively on Friday at Eaton in what was the second of three dress rehersals before the season opener against St. Henry on August 26th – scoring a total of six times – three times in a ten-play sequence from inside the twenty and three times in one half of game action.
“I thought we took a step forward offensively from what we showed in the Milton scrimmage,” said Covington coach Ty Cates. “I thought we ran the ball really well. Eaton runs a very good defense and I felt we were able to move the football pretty well against it.”
The Buccaneers showed balance – the ability to go with a ground-and-pound running attack and then stretching the field with short, medium and long range passes. Covington also showcased the ability to make the big play via both the running game and through the air.
“Overall, our pass blocking was better than it was against Milton – not where it needs to be, but better,” Cates explained. “That’s encouraging because we had a couple of our starting lineman out. That shows our kids are improving every day.”
However, there were some instances where the Buccaneers still struggled in pass blocking and hurt themselves with a lack of focus by lining up off sides or jumping the snap count. Penalties prevented potential scores, one a long touchdown run by Ethan Herron.
“Not lining up properly is unacceptable and we need to correct that,” fumed Cates. “That’s a mental part of the game we need to address. We had some mental miscues that could cost us games and we are better than that.”
Defensively, Covington had its share of highlights by swarming to the football and gang tackling Eaton ball carriers.
But the Bucks also became a benefactor to Eaton’s offense by failing to execute the finer points of the game – tackling in the open field and failing to get themselves into position to make plays. On three of Eaton’s five touchdowns Covington made critical mistakes — twice on missed tackles in the secondary that resulted in long touchdowns and once on a pass interference penalty on fourth down that kept an Eagle drive alive.
“Defensively, we took a step back, in my opinion,” said Cates. “They (Eaton) were never able to really drive the ball on us, but we gave up way too many big plays. We’d have some great plays defensively and then give up a big one because of a mental mistake. We can’t have that.”
The mistakes Covington made defensively are correctable, which is encouraging when you consider the Buccaneers are also learning a new defense.
“Oh yes, the mistakes we made are correctable,” agreed Cates. “We have to minimize those mistakes if we want to become the football team we think we can be.”
The expectation at Covington is the team should look nearly flawless two scrimmages in, but the reality is it’s going to take time for the Buccaneers to perfect a different system from what they’ve been programmed to run over the years.
But the expectation of excellence regardless of the circumstances also remains, which is why the kids were so critical of their performance afterwards.
“The kids weren’t happy with the way things went down, particularly the seniors,” said Cates. “They definitely weren’t happy about allowing them to score five times. That’s encouraging to me because I know they have high expectations for themselves and this football team.”
Which is why Coach Cates and his team are looking forward to studying the film and addressing the mistakes made in their second dress rehersals of the season.
“I’ve never been around a group of kids that care as much as this group,” Cates continued. “These kids have bought in and it’s a matter of getting them to feel comfortable within the system we are running to where they can react and not have to think so much. It takes time, but these kids are putting in the time.”
Time is running out before week one as Covington hosts Anna next Friday in the annual Jamboree before hosting St. Henry in fourteen days.