Cautious optimism has turned into reality for a Southwest Covenant football team playing for a state title this Friday.
All season, coaches and players have expressed the opinion there weren’t many teams better than themselves in the state. Now, it’s down to two.
Tipton (10-2) and Southwest Covenant (12-0) are set to face off at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford for all the marbles. The Patriots will have their work cut out for them against a powerhouse Tiger team, but they didn’t get to the title game without a noticeable confidence.
Title whispers slowly grew to shouts with each week the Patriots tacked on a win. Whereas most teams write “state championship” on the whiteboard before the season, Southwest Covenant backed up that talk.
“We definitely want to win, that would be huge,” coach Trey Cloud said. “That was one of our goals from the start of the season. For that to be our goal, for this group from the very beginning, to win a state championship, that just shows the desire, that shows where our mindset was from the beginning of the year.”
Taking down Tipton won’t be easy. The Tigers’ only two losses have come at the hands of Class B teams. They also hold a 50-20 win over Class B Burns Flat-Dill City. Their elite athletes make the difference against other Class C teams.
Tipton’s power is no match for the unparalleled Patriot speed.
“We’re definitely a lot faster,” quarterback Ben Webb said. “They’ve got a lot of power and strength, but we are faster and, when it comes down to it, we can be more physical.”
The Tigers will be bringing their share of athletes to the game.
A pair of backs and a capable quarterback will leave the Southwest Covenant defense with their work cut out for them. Cloud says his team needs to pull out all the stops to halt a fiery Tiger offense.
“We’re going to have to do some different stuff,” he said. “I think we’re confident enough to let those guys just do what they do, get to the quarterback. We need to have a better pass rush, can’t let him escape, he’s a quick kid.”
If Tipton manages to take a lead, the Patriots won’t be quick to hang their head.
“If they get a score or two ahead, I don’t think there’s any doubt we can come back from anything,” Webb said. “We’ve shown, we scored twice in three plays earlier this season, that we can score whenever we want.”
How Southwest Covenant scores is the big question.
The Patriots are coming off an outing against Buffalo in which they had just seven rushing yards to 346 passing yards. Whether the Tigers hone-in on rushing or passing has yet to be seen, but they’ll be ready for either attack.
“We’ll just have to see, we’re prepared for both,” Cloud said. “I don’t know what kind of defense they’ll line up in. I’m going to assume they’ll be pass heavy, stopping the pass because of our last game.
“I think we can run the ball on them a little, they’re not near as big as Buffalo.”
A schedule lined with wins, Cloud tries not to focus on the outcome of the game as it pertains to the scoreboard. Whether the Patriots walk away hardware in hand or not, it won’t be a lost season.
“I try, no matter where we’re playing, to never emphasize winning or losing,” he said. “I try to emphasize to them to go out and give everything they have and do their job, and at the end of the day you can hold your head high because you did everything you could.”
This game against Tipton means more than a championship.
Over recent seasons with Tipton in their district, Southwest Covenant never found themselves on the winning side of things. To come out victorious in this game would make up for all 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.”
Tipton and Southwest Covenant will kick off at 7 p.m. at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.