There are fresh slates and there are fresh slates.
When fans of the Covington Lady Charger soccer team come out to a game next month they might not recognize anything but the uniforms.
Thirteen seniors graduated from last year’s team that went to the state tournament for a second straight season and longtime head coach Robert Luttrell stepped down to focus on coaching the Dyersburg State soccer team.
The new man in charge is Rusty Richardson, who has been a guidance counselor at Covington High School for 13 years. He was hired July 12.
Although Luttrell is no longer the coach, he is still a teacher at CHS and the Covington boys’ coach.
“Coach Luttrell is a good friend of mine and we have already been in contact a lot over the past week about the team,” said Richardson. “He will still be a huge asset to me and coach (Kaleb) Blackwell. I will always welcome the advice from anyone who has had the success that he has had at Covington.”
Tryouts were held last month and the team did some conditioning earlier this month before the TSSAA dead period.
Blackwell is a former Covington High School and Bethel University player.
“He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the coaching staff and has done a great job this summer with the team,” Richardson said.
While Covington lost virtually every player who played significant minutes, including Madison Luttrell, the state’s all-time leading scorer, there are a few players returning with some experience.
Eight players return from last season, including Cassie McDaniel, who started some games last year. McKenzie Richardson scored five goals last season before going down with an injury. Kloe Bradshaw and Hailey Landers combined to score five goals last season and retuning defenders with experience include Lillian Gardiner, Riley Morris, Jessie Seagars and Allison Timberlake. Sarah Richardson, a freshman, is projected to play goalkeeper. Laney Claire Oliver and Presley Braun are freshmen who were key players at Crestview Middle last season.
Although the team will be very inexperienced this season, Richardson knows that teams will be looking to knock off a team with two straight state appearances.
“Covington has been a powerhouse the past couple of years and we are on the other teams’ radar for sure,” the new coach said.
Could a third straight trip to state be in the cards? Considering the team’s inexperience it seems unlikely, but you can bet the players have that goal on their minds.
“We want to be competitive,” Richardson said. “We are a young team, but our girls are scrappy. We are going to be putting in a lot of hard work over the next few weeks and we plan on going out and leaving it all on the field each practice and game that we play. We will make adjustments if and when needed and continue getting better. Our main goal this season is to be competitive in our district and to bring home the championship again this year. After that, we will take it one game at a time.”