By Chuck Reherman, Sports Editor – Southwest Covenant has faced a pair of top 10 ranked teams in their last two outings.
The Patriots may not have a ranked team this week, but they will have a resurgent one.
SWCS will look to get back on the winning track as the host Empire in a 7 p.m. contest at Patriot Field. The game will also be homecoming for the Patriots and homecoming festivities start at 6:30 p.m.
Empire is in its first season of eight-man football, dropping to class B from class A. The Bulldogs have brought in longtime eightman coach Bruce Harrell, who coached Maud to several state playoff appearances. Harrell has the Bulldogs off to a 3-1 start. The three wins totals the number of wins Empire has had over the past three seasons.
Empire beat Waurika 26-20 last week and own wins over Life Christian (57-6) and Temple (46-0). Their one loss came at the hands of Cyril 44-6.
“I’m big on tradition,” Harrell said. “I knew coming in that this senior bunch had only won three games in their career, so to win three in a year, that’s a big deal for them. They’ve just got to not be satisfied and we just have to keep working every day and try to get a few more of those wins.
“You hate to say this, but when you haven’t won, you’re still a lot closer to going back to that stigma that you’ve been accustomed to the last few years than you are of getting to where you need to go,” Harrell said. “I think it’s a deal where we really have to stay on them about not falling back – what I’m trying to say is, I think the confidence is good in the fact that they believe they can win and they believe they can be successful … The other night, we found a way to win and that’s a good sign.”
The Patriots also enter the contest with a 3-1 record having lost their first game of the season last week to class B No. 2 ranked Depew, 42-20.
SWCS knows that Empire has gained confidence with their three wins and won’t be a push over on Friday night.
“Empire have some talented kids, they were an 11-man team last year,” SWCS head coach Trey Cloud said. “It will be a good test for us. It should be a good game, I talked to the boys today they we have to go out and play, because they are coming in here to play and if we don’t play well, they could beat us.
“We have to go a take care of business,” he said. “This is our last non-district game and we want to finish that strong and go into the district with a 4-1 record.”
Cloud said that Empire is a team that likes to run a lot of different formations. He added that the plays may be the same, but it will come from a different look.
And, with the exception of one game, the Bulldog offense has been able to move the ball on teams.
“In the two games I saw, they ran the ball more in one and passed more in another,’ Cloud said. “I look for them to come in and be more of a balanced team against us with the run and pass.”
The Empire offense revolves around quarterback Rodolfo Martinez. Martinez can throw the ball all over the yard and has Ethan Pannell and Rowdy Swanson as his main targets. Runningback Logan Martinez is the key runner in the offense, but will also step out and catch the ball as well.
Fermin Diaz (5-10, 280) anchors the front line and Dakota Coffey at end is the best pass rusher. Linebackers Logan Martindale and Devin Mitchell steady the defense.
That defense may not have faced an offense that can be as explosive as the Patriots. SWCS is averaging 45 points a game through four contests.
“We will take what they give us,” Cloud said. “I feel we can throw the ball and can run it also. If they stack the box, we will throw it. If they back up and go zone, we will run it.
“We don’t know what kind of defense they will run at us, we have seen them in a 3-2 mostly,” he said. “We did throw the ball a little more than we wanted to last week, but when you get behind like that, you have to try and score in a hurry. We will make the adjustments as the game goes along.”
The Bulldog defense will face a quarterback in Sam Webb that has thrown 846 yards and 17 touchdowns in four games. He is 42 of 84 passing. Trevor Kelly and Cole Shaw have been his two leading targets. Both have had two games of over 100 yards in receptions.
Defensively, the Patriots have played well overall. The team did give up nearly 500 yards of offense last week, but faced probably the best offensive team in class B in Depew.
“We will have to be disciplined with all of their different looks,” Cloud said. “We have to spread out and figure out where we are suppose to be with what formation. That is the main thing. We do that we will be all right.
“They have a good coach that has been in eightman football a long time and we know he will have them ready to play.”