By Hayden Tucker, staff writer
When you think eight-man football, you don’t typically think defense, but Southwest Covenant is trying to change that.
Through eight games this season, the Patriots (8-0) are allowing just 8.5 points per contest and have shut out three teams this season. Their offense, which is averaging 52.5 points per game, has been stealing the spotlight, but the unsung hero has been on the other side of the ball.
Teams can be unpredictable in eight-man but if a team is quick, they’ll be strong. Speed is what sets SWC apart from their opponents.
“We’re really fast,” coach Trey Cloud said. “We’re really quick. That’s huge just being able to get out to the ball.”
In order to maintain the speed in his players, Cloud employs a unique practice method.
“Every day in practice I make them touch the football,” he said. “They have to go find the football. Sometimes I’ll just throw it as far as I can and say, ‘go touch the football.’ They are forced to touch the football every play and get to the football and find a nose for the football. Once they get in the game, it’s a lot easier than practice.”
Cloud doubles as head coach and offensive coordinator for the Patriots. His offensive mindset doesn’t sway him from understanding how important defense is.
“I purposely work more on defense because I realize that’s more important,” he said. “I have to every week just because we have to be able to stop the other team. That’s huge for us.”
Cloud wants to ensure that his team is trying to make plays that others won’t see coming.
“My biggest thing is just not being predictable,” he said. “Offensively and defensively just being different. See what happens and make the other team make a play.”
Defensive coordinator Terry Fellenstien is part of what makes Southwest Covenant so unpredictable.
A seasoned veteran in eight-man football, Fellenstien’s approach to the game is perfect for the Patriots.
“He does really well with the guys and the schemes,” said Cloud. “He’s been coaching eight-man football since before I was born. He’s pretty much seen it all. He’s just good at getting them in the right places and coming up with different kind of stuff to throw off the offense a little bit and maybe get a look we want.”
While this season’s Southwest Covenant players carry exceptional speed, they also understand mentally what it takes to play the defensive side of the ball.
“Defense is so much more of a mindset than it is anything else,” Cloud said. “I always tell them to hit that switch in your brain and you’re a different person, good or bad. You’re not going to do anything dirty but you’re going to hit that switch.”
Their defense didn’t only show up in games they won handedly.
In their two closest games this season against Coyle and Covington-Douglas was when they needed to rely on their defense. The Patriots defeated the Bluejackets 48-24 and they took down the Wildcats 55-14.
“Coyle and Covington, both of our closer games, they’re both in our district and we had to win those if we wanted to win our district,” Cloud said. “Those two games we definitely had to focus and had to be sound defensively.”
Though they’ve run away with wins this season, the Patriots haven’t clinched the division title yet. In their bye week they’re eyeing ways to take down, Medford, their final opponent. Honing in on that defensive mentality they’ve had all season will be imperative.
“We have to beat Medford, our next game. Right now, we’re focused on Medford. I’m always, during this bye week, looking at our film to see where we can improve.”
Southwest Covenant plays their final regular season game Nov. 2 at home against Medford.