When Kevin Cobbs arrived at Southwest Covenant, he looked around and saw potential.
An athletic program recently admitted into the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association, Cobbs knew they needed to make a splash to prove they belonged. Nine years later, the program is booming.
This school year alone, volleyball made it to the state tournament in Class 4A and football played for a state title. Last basketball season, the Patriots made the state tournament in Class A.
“Honestly, I think we’ve built the entire athletic program to buy into the culture that it means something to be a Patriot,” Cobbs said. “There are just expectations for behavior, for how hard they play, for how well they act, or how they’re coachable, how they respect officials and opponents. All that is just a culture. When I got here, it wasn’t here. It didn’t exist.
“They had just gotten into the OSSAA and if we were going to get into that association, we wanted to do it right.”
Southwest Covenant did just that with the hiring of volleyball coach Samantha Lindsey and football coach Trey Cloud. For the basketball program’s success, it starts with the schedule.
Cobbs, who doubles as principal and boys’ basketball coach, has made a point during his tenure to schedule teams above their class. They began this season playing in the Christian Heritage tournament, playing some of the Class 3A elite.
It’s become commonplace that the Patriots play some of the best teams around during their non-district schedule. It all started those nine years ago when Cobbs took the reins.
“Since I got to Covenant nine years ago, we focused on beefing up our schedule,” he said. “We wanted to play the best teams we could. The first two years I got there we scheduled Glencoe, No. 1 in the state, Fort Cobb-Broxton, No. 1 in the state. We wanted to expose our guys to the best out there and it’s paid off.
“Three state tournaments the past five years, it’s definitely paid off.”
Their tough schedule had them start off the year 1-4, a tough pill to swallow for a young group learning to play without the leadership of 2018 graduates. Once the fruit of their labor comes to pass, they’ll understand their troubles.
“It’s hard to keep the guys optimistic early in the season but, once they’ve been there, they see the benefit of it,” Cobbs said.
Playing bigger schools gives the Patriots an advantage when it comes time to play Class A rivals.
“I think the most important thing is they learn to handle the ball against really physical, athletic players,” Cobbs said. “That’s probably the most important thing. We don’t face defenses in Class A that we face against these 3A, 2A ranked teams. We just don’t. There are, obviously, good teams in Class A, we just don’t quite face that level of athleticism typically in our class.”
Though Southwest Covenant places an emphasis on playing bigger teams, their most recent games have been out of the normal.
The Patriots just finished a home-and-home with Family of Faith, a team in the Christian Schools League. In their first game, a matchup before the holiday break, they defeated FOF 95-51. In their second meeting, the first of the new calendar year, Southwest Covenant dismantled their opponent 99-37.
Family of Faith insisted on playing the Patriots. With teams dropping Southwest Covenant from their schedules for various reasons, they felt they needed the experience.
“I thought it would be good to play somebody coming off the break before we went to Hammon because that tournament is going to be loaded,” Cobbs said. “So will Coyle. The Coyle tournament will be loaded as well.
“If nothing else, it lets some of our guys get into a rhythm of basketball who are still kind of hungover from the football season.”