By Ben Robinson
Playing in the state playoffs is something the Covington Buccaneers have made an annual tradition over the past two decades. When Covington takes the field Friday night against Lehman Catholic, it will mark the 20th season in which the Buccaneers have qualified for the post season, including 16 of the past 17 seasons and tenth straight appearance overall.
Last season Covington was a playoff participant despite a very youthful roster and was throttled by a much more experienced Lehman team 42-7 in the opening round. Still, that experience should benefit Covington because the majority of the kids on the roster have playoff experience.
“We played them (Lehman) last year and they handled us pretty good,” said Covington coach Dave Miller. “Hopefully we’ve matured since then and can execute a lot better than we did the last time. We didn’t execute very well in that game and a lot of credit goes to them for that.”
Covington has shown maturity throughout the year in accumulating an 8-2 record and earning a share of the Cross County Conference title with Miami East.
But the Buccs have also suffered from a lack of focus at times throughout the year, something they can’t do Friday.
“We haven’t been consistent protecting the football,” Miller said. “That’s one thing we have to shore up Friday. We can’t turn the ball over.”
Because Lehman has offensive weapons that are more than capable of making teams pay for mistakes.
“One thing that stands out most is they are extremely well coached,” praised Miller of Lehman. “Coach Roll has a great coaching staff and always has a solid game plan against us. Their quarterback is really good and their receivers are athletic.”
Which means Covington will have to stay very disciplined on defense.
“We can’t let their quarterback extend plays because he’ll beat you,” Miller said. “We have to keep him boxed in and maintain coverage down the field.”
One way to contain the high-powered Lehman offense is keeping it on the sideline – which is what Miller and the Buccaneers hope to do with its triple-option attack.
“What we do, it’s no secret,” said Miller. “We do what we do, control the clock and maximize our possessions. If we can do that, take care of the football and put together sustained drives, we can hang with anybody. We can’t beat ourselves.”
The Buccaneers also hope their depth pays dividends. Even with just 34 kids on the roster, Covington is able to platoon at several positions.
“Our depth is a result of the attitudes and effort of the kids,” Miller said. “They’ve worked very hard, which is why we’ve been able to build some depth even with a smaller roster. It’s given us more flexibility with different packages.”
Lehman coach Richard Roll sees Covington as having another strong team.
“They’re the same type of team they were last year,” said Lehman head coach Dick Roll. “The run the option and the 5-2 defense. The defense isn’t so much to prepare for, but the offense is, with the option. They run it well and we have to stop it. They don’t throw much, but when they do it’s normally for a big play. We have to be disciplined.”
Roll wishes his team had been tested more heading into the postseason. The Cavs’ last two games came against Northwest Central Conference foes Ridgemont and Waynesfield, and the combined margin of victory was 97 points.
“It would have been nice to get more of a test in there,” said Roll. “And if you would have asked me yesterday, I’d have said I was concerned. But we had a pretty good practice (Tuesday), especially on the offensive side.”
Covington and Lehman kick it off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.