By TERRY GROOVER
When a football team finishes its previous season as the runner-up for the state championship, having lost only one game, and is returning virtually its entire lineup, expectations are high.
Coach Trey Cloud knows the pressures that his Southwest Covenant Patriots are facing this season, and he’s preparing his players.
Cloud, who is entering his seventh season as a coach and sixth as head coach for the Patriots, said he hopes to replicate the success his team had last year with one exception.
He wants the gold ball instead of the silver one.
His players feel the same way.
They have to pass that silver ball every day as they leave the weight room. It is a constant reminder that they came up one game short of a perfect season.
Cloud wants them to be reminded that they can always do better. That, while the 2018 season was a good one, there is room for improvement.
“That’s what I’ve been preaching to the boys,” Cloud said, adding that making sure that his players complete every aspect of their game is important.
“What can you do better this year,” he said.
This year’s team returns six offensive players and five defensive players from the 2018 team.
Last year’s squad had five seniors, but Cloud said he believes that his younger players are prepared to step in and fill those holes.
“They are doing well. This is the strongest we’ve ever been. It is the best shape we’ve ever been in as a football team,” he said.
Returning players include quarterback Ben Webb and wide receiver Will Haas. The two combined for the majority of the Patriots’ touchdowns last year.
Up front, three players are back on the line.
Tyler Kelly, an incoming junior, will be back as the Patriots’ runningback.
“He’s definitely a force both offensively and defensively,” Cloud said.
Most of Southwest Covenant’s players will see time on offense and defense.
That means they will need to be in great condition.
Cloud said the players worked out four days a week over the summer.
“We had a big turnout. A lot of those guys were preparing themselves,” he said.
“When you lose a state championship, you want to win one. That has been our focus,” Cloud said.
The Patriots will begin their quest for a state title on Sept. 6 when they host Central Marlow.