Interview: Covington football coach Greg Salter optimistic about Lions in 2020
Entering his eighth year as head coach as the head football coach at the school where his grandfather, Jack Salter made his Hall of Fame name, Greg Salter has made his grandfather proud, building a consistent winner at the stadium that bears his grandfather’s name.
In his first season (2013), Salter took the Lions to the Class 5A semifinals and he led Covington to the quarterfinals in 2017.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in 2018, Salter’s Lions rebounded, making the playoffs in 2019 as a 23rd seed, beating No. 10 Sam Houston on the road before falling to eventual state finalist Destrehan.
With key players returning at key positions, Covington will contend for District 6-5A honors in 2020.
As a guest on All Access on 106.1 FM Friday night, Salter commended the LHSAA for the way it has handled trying to get athletics back on the playing fields in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“That’s the one thing we’ve told our kids from the get go,” Salter said. “With all the uncertainty going around, all the time, the LHSAA has not wavered in the fact that they want these young men to be on the field. Whether it’s August, whether it’s October, I’ve even heard the mention of spring come up, it sounds like they’re as invested in our kids as we are. I commend them. Setting a date provides a focus for these kids.”
The various considerations include a reduced regular season of six, seven or eight games with playoffs to follow, either in full or with a reduced playoff bracket to fit the dates for the potential of an eight-game regular season.
“I certainly want what’s best for everyone in the state and the LHSAA will make a decision based off of that,” Salter said. “I would prefer the five-round playoff (full). I know how difficult and strenuous a 10-game season can be and the ups and downs, peaks and valleys you go through. Last year, we got hit by the injury bug early in the year and played some good teams and we started off 1-3.
We started getting healthy, finding our identity and the next six weeks, the only loss we had was to Slidell in overtime which ultimately turned out to be for the district championship. We pulled an upset in the first round and we were up 7-3 on Destrehan in the fourth quarter before they came back and were able to beat us. We would never have had that opportunity without the field of 32.”
In 2020, District 6-5A looks like a wide open competition to decide a district champion.
“In this league, the number one thing is the quality of coaches,” Salter said. “There’s so many great coaches throughout our district, proven winners that have done great jobs leading their programs. I think it all starts there.”
While the coaching is excellent, the overall talent in the league is impressive as well.
“Our area is often overlooked as far as the talent is concerned,” Salter said. “There are great players as well. We’re continuing to send kids to big-time colleges. We’re very proud of the football we play in our district. There’s going to be four or five teams competing for the title. I can’t even tell you which four or five they will be.”
On offense, senior Blake Sharp (5-9, 190) returns to run the offense. In his junior season, Sharp completed 88-of-174 passes for 1,125 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
“I was really pleased with the way he was able to play last year,” Salter said. “he was a first-year starter, a guy who did not have much experience coming in. As comfortable as he got out there, the more comfortable we got in his ability and the things that we were able to ask him to do. He’s just hit the ground running. He’s developing into a leader.”
The Lions return junior Quintez Laurant (5-9, 160), who rushed for 797 yards on 163 carries with six touchdowns last season and have a talented sophomore receiver in DeKengie James (5-9, 150), who missed most of last season injured.
Senior fullback Gauge Bourque (5-9, 225) is another standout while up front, senior tackle Melvin Bates (6-4, 290) anchors the offensive line.
There is talent and experience at every level on defense as well.
Up front, senior Alex Sharp (6-1, 220) is an excellent defensive end. Sharp is healthy now after being limited a year ago due to injuries.
At linebacker, senior Cade Rogers (5-11, 190) is back healthy after also nursing injuries a year ago while sophomore Bryce Blacksell (5-9, 160) was in on 63 tackles last season.
The secondary features a pair of standouts in senior Dyonati McDowell (6-3, 160) and junior Ian Goodly (6-0, 165). Goodly had 84 tackles and a pair of interceptions in 2019.
“Cade and Alex, they lettered as freshmen on that team that went undefeated in 2017,” Salter said. “Guys like that are why it is so important that we are able to play football again this year. They have invested so much into Covington football and the sacrifices that they have made for the last four years. It would break my heart not to see those guys back on the field.”
While the tradition of training camp is canceled as will be early season games, Salter remains hopeful in the midst of the darkness of 2020.
“There are certain experiences they expect to have as a Covington Lion,” Salter said. “It doesn’t do any good complaining. We just appreciate the things that we do have. We cherish that. Right now, it’s all about playing football.”
In the Salter tradition, the Lions figure to do so in solid fashion whenever that opportunity presents itself.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…