Coming into this season, the Covington Lions were expected to be one of the tougher teams on the north shore.
Decimated by injuries throughout the year, the Lions finished the season 6-4. Winners of their past two games, including a 21-6 victory over Mandeville, Lions coach Greg Salter said his squad continues to improve and more importantly get healthy.
Salter now takes his No. 23 Lions to St. Amant to take on the No. 10 Gators (8-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at The Pit.
“The health of this team has been the story of the season,” Salter said. “During the middle of the season, we were without eight starters at one point. Now that number is down to only three. As we have gotten healthier, we have become a better football team. Not just because of getting those starters back, but the experience the guys behind them have gotten and improved upon with each and every game.”
The other turning point for the Lions season came when Salter made a switch at quarterback before the Northshore game Oct. 23.
Moving Nicholls State commitment Marquell Hollins to his natural position at cornerback, sophomore Joshua Alfaro took over at quarterback for Covington and is unbeaten as a starter.
On the year he has thrown for 378 yards on 19-of-34 passes for three touchdowns against only one interception. He has also rushed for 180 yards on 20 carries and five touchdowns.
“The other great thing about having Alfaro under center now is the fact Marquell can concentrate on the other side of the football,” Salter said. “He has completely changed what we have been able to do now defensively. The complete mentality has changed, and we have been able to be that much more aggressive on that side of the football.
“Josh brings us a great sense of consistency for what we are trying to do as an offense. He has also taken some of the pressure off of (running back) Devin Brumfield tremendously.”
The sophomore tailback for the Lions is still the focal point of the Covington attack. Rushing for 1,553 yards on 211 carries (7.4 per carry), Brumfield has 17 rushing touchdowns on the season.
“Those two (Alfaro and Brumfield) were comfortable together quickly,” Salter said. “They have worked very well together from the start and that is something you really can’t teach. It’s fun to watch them in practice and during the game. They feed off of each other.”
The matchup against the Gators won’t be the first time the Lions have to go on the road as a double-digit. Last season, #25 Covington pulled off the biggest upset of the Class 5A bracket, going on the road and defeating No. 8 Carencro, 34-0.
“We have talked about it all week,” Salter said. “Of course the cliché’ is everybody is now 0-0. But we as a coaching staff can point to success we have had on the road just last season is great. Our kids have the mindset that if we go over there and play the way we did last week against Mandeville that we are capable of advancing and coming home with a win.”
Meanwhile, David Oliver and the Gators will be looking for their first playoff victory since 2001.
“The whole community is excited because this is our first home playoff game since 2004,” he said. “Covington is a tough opponent and is going to present a lot of challenges. They have a dynamic running back and play good sound defense. It is going to be a challenge for us.”