COBDEN (WSIL) -- The Cobden boy's basketball team has already made school history. It's the first time going undefeated in conference play and first outright conference championship since 1979. This also marks back to back 20 win seasons for the program. So, we wanted to head out to Cobden to take a closer look at this special team.
There is a sense of pride you feel the moment you step into the Codben Appleknocker gym.
" You don't get a chance to be an Appleknocker very often, so I'm just very blessed to be here and share this time with these guys," said current head coach Wendell Wheeler.
It's a place rich with history. History that is plastered across school walls. History this current team hopes to repeat.
"You know when a lot of people talk about the Cobden Appleknockers, a lot of people who aren't from here are like oh the Appleknockers of 64," said current senior Alex Remsey. "That's how a lot of people know Cobden and our small little town. If you go into our locker room we have pictures from the 1964 team and we look at them and be like that's where we want to be like those guys. It's just a step in the program to get to where those guys were."
It's a story the people of Cobden will never forget. 55 years ago the 1964 basketball team made it to the state championship. A time where schools were not divided into classes based on size. If you were good you could make it to the state tournament and that's exactly what this team from the small town of Cobden did.
"That was a dream come true," said 1964 basketball team guard Jim Smith. "It was a dream come true for all of us. We all started playing together in the 4th grade and played all the way through the senior year and it was a really big deal to us."
A scene 1964 guard Jim Smith says he will never forget, like peeling a page back in time, arriving back in Cobden after state.
"There is a slow grinding hill coming into Cobden and you started seeing all these people," said Smith. " I mean just people everywhere I mean just thousands of people there that day and Codben itself only has 1200 people."
"As we were passing neighboring towns we started seeing people and we were just like what were in Carbondale and people all had their signs and everything," said 1964 basketball team head coach Dick Ruggles.
That 1964 team was a tall group of guys with the shortest starter at 6'1. That's where the comparison to the current 2019-2020 team come in. If you ask those close to the program, they say this group of guys have the height and talent to make a run into the post season.
"It's a great compliment because the boys have grown up on the story," said Wheeler. "I've read it and really respect Coach Ruggles who was here at the time. It's such a great story and then to be grouped with it its a compliment for us."
"I think its an honor for them to call us that," said Remsey.
"I think its pretty crazy because of what they did," said current senior basketball player Dylan Lewey." " I mean we have never did that we haven't won a regional since 1964, so just to hear that is pretty crazy.
The current Appleknockers are undefeated in conference play ..with their eyes on the post season.
Coach Wheeler (Current coach) - "We've been really fortunate that we've played well, we've played a lot of people close, but we wanted to play an upper schedule to try and get us ready for post season," said Coach Wheeler.
Cobden already has huge wins on their resume, like the one in the West Frankfort Gym. That hadn't been done since that 1964 team in the super sectionals.
"We do have a lot of momentum going into post season, but we are just trying to take it one game at a time," said Lewey.
While this team is trying to go the distance,they have the legendary state team behind them the whole way.
"I hope these kids are able to go on and have the success we had," said Smith
"We really embrace it because we're proud of them and these guys are still in the community they still support us and that means a lot for us," said Coach Wheeler. " I think it goes to the point to knowing our guys are being supported by that team that means a lot."
Dylan Lewey (Senior) - "It's pretty cool to see them on the sideline watching us and cheering us on," said Lewey. "I mean they could be doing anything else. They could be sitting at home, but they choose to come out and support us and that's pretty cool.
"We had a book signing down there and the guys all showed up and met and talked with the team about what is was like and the guys kinda said just keep working hard and you'll know whats it like," said Coach Ruggles.
Working hard is exactly what these kids have done. Their first goal to bring home a title when they host regionals.
"At this point in the season we are just ready to go into the post season and hopefully just keep on playing until the end," said Lewey. "We have been playing together since we were little kids like pre-K, so we know what we can all do and we've just always been there for each other."
"That's just our main focus we want that so bad and we want that for our community," said Remsey.
The Appleknockets have already clinched the South Egyptian Conference. Cobden earns a bye in round one of Regionals.
Cobden plays the winner of Century against Dongola
That game will be played Wednesday February 26th at 6pm.
Let's take a look at the Appleknockers of 1964, now
11 of the 12 players along with Coach are still alive.
Bob Smith is the only 1964 Appleknocker that has passed away.
6 former players and Coach Ruggles still call Southern Illinois their home.