“We're seeing a change in the culture. They have an expectation that they can compete with people, and not just compete, but possibly win against them.”
Just as with the weightlifting sessions, Smith pushes his players in ways they haven't experienced before, and he's a father figure for many of them who might not have one otherwise.
“He gets along with us and can be our friend at times, and he can be our coach, getting on our tail and getting things straightened out,” Alexander said. “My sophomore year, there was a lot of fussing and people trying to fight. This year, there's none of that. We're a team, a family.”
The seniors know they'll only be around long enough to see the process begin, but they hope they're making an impact that will live beyond their high school eligibility.
“We're actually being something this year, actually doing something. Not just being the same ol' Northwest Classen. We're seeing progress,” senior Terrance Bias said. “With the young guys, we're trying to teach them right from wrong and be as brotherly as possible. We try to help them and work them hard, so they'll be ready for it when it's their turn.”
This team isn't done winning. The Knights host Class 4A Woodward (0-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in the final nondistrict game of the season, which will be a tough test. They open district play at home against Western Heights, then head to Guymon, both winnable games.
Then the schedule takes an unfriendly turn for the second half of the season, with games against El Reno, Carl Albert, McGuinness, Deer Creek and defending Class 5A champion Guthrie.
Smith's process to rebuild Northwest isn't on a two-year turnaround track. Building a winner at a place that hasn't been a winner in decades doesn't happen that quickly. But the process is gaining momentum.
“My freshman year, we didn't do anything we do now,” said Bias. “We didn't work hard. The coaches would tell you to do what you thought you could do. Not with coach Smith. We're gonna do what he thinks we can do, and it pushes you beyond your limits.
“It's a total difference, from the weight room, on the field, off the field, classroom behavior — everything is way different. It's not even the same Northwest Classen.”