Covington, Salter face rebuilding task in 2018

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Covington Lions
Covington is one of two St. Tammany Parish schools at the top of their respective classifications (Photo: Pat Mashburn).

The name Salter is synonymous with Covington Lions football and success.

Legendary coach Jack Salter established a championship program at Covington and his legacy is secure. His grandson, Greg, has continued the winning tradition as head coach of the Lions over the last five seasons.

Covington reached the quarterfinals in Class 5A a year ago, falling to Hahnville. It was the second straight year that Hahnville ended the Lions season in the state playoffs.

Back in 2013, the Lions reached the semifinals in Salter’s first year on the job.

Salter must now find a way to continue the success he has established without the formidable services of record setting running back Devin Brumfield and brilliant quarterback Joshua Alfaro. Brumfield is now at Utah while Alfaro is at Houston Baptist.

The Lions also lost outstanding wide receivers in KeJohn Batiste and Elgin Bell. In fact, Salter must replace 10 of 11 offensive starters from a year ago.

“Like anyone else, we try to talk ourselves into reloading, not rebuilding, but it will be tough,” Salter said. “Losing 30 seniors says it all. It will be different, including a lot of three-year starters in that group. We lost our all-time leading rusher, all-time leading passer and second all-time leading receiver in Batiste. We do feel like we have some good young kids who have had to wait their turn. It is their opportunity now.”

The top player on offense is senior running back Jeremiah Driver (5-9 185), who will step into the large void left by Brumfield.

“Driver is the only starter back for us and he was our fullback last year,” Salter said. “He is a quality running back. He could have toted the rock for many teams around the state but he had Devin in front of him. He played with the best and learned a lot from him. He’s confident in his ability and we’re confident in him, too!”

Sophomore Alex Sharp (6-0, 230) is a big, physical fullback.

Senior Sheldon Baham (6-0, 160) has the task of replacing Alfaro at quarterback. The wide receivers include three juniors in Reggie Gause (6-3, 170), Bobby Showers (5-10, 165) and Kobe Callahan (6-4, 180).

“Baham came out from the basketball team,” Salter said. “He saw me last year about coming out and he has a good arm, is very athletic and has great speed. He is a tough kid. There will be some learning taking up experience. We have worked with Edgerrin Cooper as well and he has a bright future and is learning the position and will provide depth at quarterback when he is not playing defense.”

The receivers all come from the basketball squad as well.

“Reggie Gause is an excellent basketball player, Callahan is tall as well,” Salter said. “We will have a lot of length but we will have to battle inexperience. We are excited about that group. They will be together for two years.

The entire offensive line features new starters.

The center is senior Daven Sharp (6-0, 220) while the guards include senior Lane Firmin (5-10, 265) and Trace Bland (5-10, 295). The tackles are juniors Trevor Rainey (6-0, 250) and Remi Bourque (6-0, 305).

“We have some good, hard-nosed Covington kids,” Salter said. “We feel they have a lot of potential. A couple converted from the defensive line and they will shore up the offensive line. We feel that despite what we lose, we like what we have back.”

The Lions defense is a bit more experienced and accomplished but must replace seven starters as well.

“We have four full-time starters from a year ago and we like their ability,” Salter said.

Up front senior defensive end Corey Donovan (6-4, 250) is a very good returning starter while huge senior tackle Kobe Amos (6-0, 300) is tough. Senior Jonathan Calhoun (6-0, 240) is the other tackle while Rainey (6-0, 190) will man the other end spot as a two-way starter.

“Donovan has put on weight and he will be a force for us,” Salter said. “Amos is the strongest kid on the team.”

At the second level, Cooper (6-2, 200) is a standout. Senior Grant Sevin (6-0, 220) is the other inside linebacker.

“Cooper has put on 15 pounds and he can be a big-time player,” Salter said. “He is one of our best athletes, whether we have him on offense or defense. He is just a good football player.”

The secondary is particularly good, led by senior safeties Juwan Harrell (5-9, 185) and Avery Mendheim (6-1, 165). Harrell will line up at outside linebacker as well. The other outside linebacker is junior Blake Glass (5-9, 170). Harrell was the leading tackler a year ago.

“Juwan simply makes plays,” Salter said. “He finds the ball and gets people on the ground and works hard. Mendheim is totally reliable and solid as well.”

Junior cornerback Chandler Washington (5-9, 150) is another good player. He will be joined by junior Jaylon Carter (5-10, 160) on the corner.

“Our defense will be our strength early and has to be,” Salter said. “Some others played last year that did not start and that will certainly help us. We have some good players back. Jaylen Carter tore his ACL recently and we have lost him for the season in the secondary. Fortunately, he will have another year left.”

The schedule is challenging, as always.

The Lions open at Franklinton before hosting a good Holy Cross squad and Dutchtown.

“I expect Franklinto to be improved and Dutchtown gave us fits last year,” Salter said. “Holy Cross has a lot back and a new coach and they were tough last year.”

District 6-5A play opens with Homecoming against Ponchatoula on Sept. 21 before a road game at Slidell. The Lions host St. Paul in the battle of Covington on Oct. 4 before traveling to Fontainebleau. Oct. 19 is Senior Night at home against Northshore before the Lions close on the road at Hammond and Mandeville.

“The first three weeks of district will tell us quite a lot,” Salter said. “Other teams late in the schedule have improved, including Fontainebleau and Hammond. Mandeville has stabilized after a tough year. There are no pushovers on the schedule. We believe we can compete with all of them. St. Paul is always up there and they will be very good. It always goes through them. Slidell returns the most players. Ponchatoula has outstanding skill. Northshore is no easy task. It will be a fun year in district.”

In a tough league having lost 30 seniors, it will be tough for Covington to maintain the level of success enjoyed recently. With a history of winning, one cannot discount the tradition of Lions football and the magnitude of the Salter name.


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