COVENTRY TWP. By necessity rather than preference, the 2018 season became about laying the foundation for the future more than chasing lofty ambitions in the present for the Coventry Comets.
The realities of football dictate that no team will go through an entire season injury-free, but the Comets managed to rack up more than their normal share of breaks, tears, sprains and strains this fall. The result of those injuries can be seen in several numbers, but the most notable ones are 3-7 and 11.
The 3-7 is the final record Coventry accrued and 11 is the number of starters who were sidelined by the end of the year due to various injuries.
"It was random injury-wise … we had two knees injuries, three shoulder injuries, a fractured rib, several ankle injuries, but even the ankle injuries were each different types of ankle injuries," sixth-year head coach Ed Egan said. "But we ended up with 11 starters injured who didn’t dress for the last three games."
Egan noted that the team had a full-time trainer for the first time this season and joked that the team "really put him to work."
The season’s latter weeks became a bit of a M.A.S.H. unit-worthy exercise as coaches and trainers would meet and decide which players were healthy enough to play that week. It’s also not difficult to pinpoint the juncture of the season when the injuries began to take their toll on the Comets.
"We started out the year having a great season, then we lost our running back Zach Rankin, but we played great against Cloverleaf and in the second half of the Tallmadge game," Egan said. "In the middle of the Field game, injuries started to hit."
Egan credited the team’s younger players for stepping up as the year wore on and competing well with some of the best teams in the Portage Trail Conference. The Comets took league tri-champion Woodridge to overtime before losing and was tied with tri-champion Ravenna just before halftime, but saw the Ravens pull away late.
Some upperclassmen, such as senior quarterback Andrew Arnold, remained in the lineup, but others, such as Rankin, missed most of the year.
On the heels of an 8-2 season in which it narrowly missed the playoffs, Coventry hoped to compete for the PTC Metro title and a postseason berth this year. Instead, it went from a veteran-led, experienced team to one with underclassmen starting unexpectedly once injuries began to hit.
Playoff hopes evaporated and a five-game losing streak to end the season took their place. Egan found himself talking to his team about handling adversity and how they would have to do the same in life outside of football now and going forward.
"Over and over, I talked to them about life lessons from football," Egan said. "It builds character … you may think life is easy, but it's not and somebody has to be there to step up and you still have to find a way pay the bills and do what needs done."
By year’s end, a roster with 50 players had just 39 dressing for games and the Comets ended up with a relatively similar number of players on the sidelines as Springfield, which began the year with a much smaller roster than its rival. The Spartans won the game 20-13, another close loss for Coventry.
With the season now over, the underclassmen and coaches are in the midst of an OHSAA-mandated one-month hiatus between their final game and the start of offseason lifting. After the school’s Thanksgiving break, the Comets will get back to work, with players spending the winter and spring lifting and trying to get stronger with an eye on making next season one in which they bounce back from all of their bad breaks this fall and try to return the program to its winning ways of recent years.
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