Maranatha to test its mettle with varsity football schedule
Those are the words of Maranatha Academy varsity football head coach Brandon Smith regarding the state of the Eagles' program going into its third year of existence.
Indeed, the program is growing going from a sub-.500 record in 2006 to a 7-2 record in 2007 against primarily freshman, sophomore, and junior varsity teams.
Now comes the 2008 season and an urgent need for one heck of a growth spurt.
For the first time, the Eagles will play a complete varsity season against similar-sized area schools and will even compete for a championship in the inaugural season of the Crossroads League.
The Eagles will do all of this with just two seniors on their 18-man roster, but with an increased awareness of the intricacies of the game after two years of on-field lessons.
"Our knowledge of the game has increased by leaps and bounds," said Smith who has been the Eagles' field chief since the inception of the program. "It'll be hard to top 7-2 from last year, but we should be competitive against every team we play this season."
Two of the reasons for Smith's optimism come in the form of senior linemen Anthony Craig and Aaron Winkler. The three-year veterans will form the strong side of the Eagle line and will provide a wall of protection for the backfield combination of Brady Bergerhoffer (QB) and Alan Rozelle (TB). Behind Craig and Winkler, Smith plans to employ a power-I formation running attack to wear down defenses.
Loading up the 2008 Eagles with complicated defensive schemes is not in the cards for Smith, who recognizes that, with just two seniors on the team, his players need to conquer the basics of stopping the run first.
"We have pretty good size in our freshman class," Smith said, "and we have a sizeable sophomore class, but most of them have never played; so it's all about teaching them the fundamentals."
Help for the future appears on the way, however, as Maranatha launches its middle school football program this season with 28 players signed up.
For the present, Smith will concentrate on getting his team ready for a varsity schedule that includes Olathe Christian (a first-year football program), Lone Jack, Sherwood-Cass, West Platte, St. Mary's of Independence, Onaga, Olpe and St. Mary's. The Eagles will compete with Sherwood-Cass, St. Mary's of Independence, and Lone Jack for the first-ever Crossroads League championship. Smith believes his team should be right in the mix.
"There's no reason we shouldn't be able to compete for the league championship right away," Smith said.