BY CHAD DARE
COVINGTON, Ind. —
A lot of things went wrong a year ago for the Covington football program.
In the first season for head coach Travis Brown, the Trojans were just 2-8 and they season ended with a 58-6 setback to the North Vermillion Falcons in the first round of the sectional tournament.
While some key injuries played a role in the team’s disappointing season, there was another factor that had to change — their attitude.
“Physically, mentally and our attitudes — everything had to change this year,’’ said Covington senior lineman Tanner Jumps. “We have been working more as a team this year and we’ve bonded.’’
And those changes started at the end of last year.
“We got together at the end of last year, and decided that we were going to work hard during the offseason,’’ Jumps said. “We wanted everyone to follow us, and luckily, everyone did. We’ve been working since winter.
“We only had a few in the weight room a year ago and we didn’t have any summer workouts last year, and that is one thing that can develop the team bonding. This year, we had nearly everyone working together and we hope the outcome is better.’’
And all of that time, the Trojans have spent during the offseason and during the summer has brought this group together.
“We really didn’t have the best chemistry last year,’’ Covington senior Nick Ratcliff said. “Not only did we work in the weight room and on the practice field, but we also worked hard on developing our team bonding this year.’’
According to senior lineman Cole Stalcup, there wasn’t really any option after winning just two games a year ago after having a pair of six-win seasons in their first two years with the program.
“We had to get ourselves better,’’ he said. “We didn’t have much intensity last year and that is also one thing we are going to pick up this year.’’
The change from last year to this year has definitely been noticed by the Covington coaching staff.
“We’re still working on some things,’’ Brown said. “But with their work ethic this summer and during the offseason, I think we are going to be in some games.
“Now how we finish those games is a different story. If we had the right attitude we can have a good season.’’
A year ago, Covington had seven of its eight losses by 19 points or more, so being in a close game will be a different experience for the Trojans. And those defeats left a sour taste in their mouths.
“During the offseason and here in the preseason, we’ve been working hard to get rid of that bad taste,’’ Jumps said. “But, we know that we have to prove it on the field.’’
The Trojans will look to Jumps and Stalcup to be a big part of their turn around. Those two are part of a big line that averages about 6-foot-1 and more than 225 pounds.
“Things start at the line in football,’’ Stalcup said. “We’re just going to do the best that we can up front, and hopefully, that will lead to success this season.’’
And with that size, the Trojans have spent a lot of time working on their team speed.
“Since we are fairly big up front, we’ve spent a lot of time working on our speed,’’ Brown said. “Sometimes a year ago, we were a little slower than I would like.
“The work that we’ve done in the offseason is showing here in preseason practices and I hope it carries over into the games.’’
The coach isn’t the only one that is happy to see a big line.
Noble, who was inserted into the starting lineup a year ago in the second game, likes what he sees as well.
“I’m really comfortable with the group of guys in front of me,’’ he said. “And, I think we’ve got some really good guys to carry the ball behind them. That should definitely be the strength of our offense.’’
Ratcliff pointed out that those big bodies on the defensive line should also help. The Trojans allowed an average of 37.7 points per game.
“We have high expectations for our line, our backfield and our defense,’’ he said. “We are going to be more physical, and hopefully, that means we are going to be better.’’
One of the biggest things that could help Covington this season is better health.
A year ago, the Trojans lost some key seniors in the opening weeks of the season, as they lost their first five games.
“We had a couple injuries last year and it kind of sunk the ship for us, because the morale and the attitude was negative,’’ Brown said. “As coaches, we should have done a better job of bringing energy and get everyone on the same page.’’
So, does that put any added emphasis on the start of this year?
“No, not really,’’ Brown said. “You can’t hang your hat on just one or two games. We want to be better for the entire season and some early success would definitely be a step in the right direction.’’
Additionally, Brown likes the direction of his program with 33 kids on this year’s roster, including 16 freshmen.
“Our numbers are up from a year ago,’’ he said. “And our middle school numbers are up. So I would say thing are looking up for us.’’
But, all of that youth has created a little problem for the program.
“We’ve only got seven players that can drive,’’ said Brown, who admits his other players either walk or get rides out to the Trojans Sports Complex.
Covington travels to Turkey Run tonight for a 7 p.m. scrimmage against the Warriors.
The Trojans will open the regular season with a pair of home games. South Vermillion takes on Covington on Aug. 23, while the WRC opener for the Trojans will be on Aug. 30 against the Rockville Rox.