Southwest Covenant made their own history as the final seconds ticked off the board Friday night at Northwestern Oklahoma State College.
In its relatively short history as a football school, the Patriots (12-0) had never made a state championship game. That changed with their 42-20 victory over No. 1 ranked Buffalo (12-1).
The 22-point win was the closest margin of victory of any game Southwest Covenant played this season. It wasn’t exactly a nail-biter, rather a war between two powerhouse schools looking for a title.
The Patriots made their mark by scoring first on a 53-yard pass to Tyler Kelly from Ben Webb.
“That first drive really boosted us, just to begin the game,” Webb said. “I don’t think we ever got our heads down.”
Though the Bison managed to answer back with a one-yard run and a failed two-point conversion, Southwest Covenant got the last laugh in the quarter. Webb threw another exceptional pass to Will Haas 75 yards for the score.
The second quarter proved unfortunate for the Patriots.
Covenant’s 15-point lead dwindled to zero after a TD (failed two-point conversion) and a safety. The Patriots would not go into halftime tied, as they answered with a short scoring pass.
Buffalo was staring down the barrel of a 21-14 deficit coming into the third quarter, and things wouldn’t get much easier.
Cole Shaw’s 13-yard TD reception extended the Patriot lead to 28-14. The Bison didn’t roll over.
Buffalo narrowed the gap 28-20 at the end of the third quarter.
On offense, the Patriots turned on the jets in the fourth period with two more Ben Webb bombs. The QB hit Haas for a 48-yard reception and Tyler Kelly for 19-yards to make it a 42-20 final score.
The Patriots’ big second half propelled the win.
“Defensively we did a good job, especially in the second half,” coach Trey Cloud said. “We stepped up in the second half and got some key stops when we needed to. That gave our offense the chance to score a little more.”
After recovering five fumbles against Tyrone, Southwest Covenant brought that same energy in the semi-finals, collecting all three fumbles from the Bison. Webb led the team in tackles (13). His two sacks tied Jesse Deason and Andrew Hickman for most on the night.
It wasn’t the usual brand of offense from the Patriots on Pioneer Wireless Field.
Southwest Covenant made its mark in the game through the air, rather than the ground. Their 346 passing yards eclipsed the seven rushing yards in the game.
Normally a strong running team, the Patriots needed to adapt for their semi-final opponent. That was a difficult job for a team playing with less size.
“We had the jitters, of course,” Cloud said. “It’s a big game. You’re going to have the jitters. Once we settled in, we knew they were huge, way bigger than us.”
Once the Patriots ditched the run game, the air raid ensued.
“We knew that was going to be a tough task to run the ball, but I thought we could take advantage of the outside, and Ben made some big throws and great reads,” Cloud said.
Having the personnel to change their game plan this late in the season is something that sets them apart from the competition.
“It’s what makes us unique,” Trevor Kelly said. “We have skill on every position out there. We can change and adapt out there.”
The Patriots will need to be at the top of their game for the championship game against a team they’ve struggled with previously.
Southwest Covenant faces Tipton Friday at Southwestern Oklahoma State University for the gold ball. Having never beat the Tigers, a win for the Patriots would make up for the years of losing.
“I’m excited for this game, not just because it’s the state championship but, also, we’ve never beat Tipton, and we want a shot back at them,” Webb said. “I think that, especially for the title, it’s going to be a fun game.”
The Patriots and Tigers will kick off at 7 p.m. to decide the state championship.