By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
After a brief, two-year stint with 11-man, St. Joseph Christian is going back to its roots.
The Lions are once again an 8-man football program, as they had been for decades prior.
"Oh I'm super stoked," said senior quarterback and linebacker Caleb Carlson. "All of the guys that I looked up to when I was a little kid, they all played 8-man, and they did a pretty good job at it. So, I'm just excited to get back out here, carry on the tradition and just play some football."
St. Joseph Christian had co-oped with Northland Christian for the last two seasons to create an 11-man team - a team that did not register any wins.
They were shut out four times in 2019 and never scored north of 14 points in 2020, playing against the likes of Cameron, St. Pius X, Maryville, Plattsburg, East Buchanan and others.
It's for that reason, however, coach Troy Schenk feels confident his players will be ready for this season after two years of very tough schedules.
"I think we have guys who are ready to compete," Schenk said. "They've seen some teams and players at the top level. So, I feel real confident in those guys that have fought through the last two years and their ability to compete at a high level this year."
Christian is a young team. Carlson is the lone senior, and there's only four upperclassmen total. But with four players back who have significant starting experience, there's a solid foundation to begin with.
"We're all very strong willed and we don't really want to quit," said junior lineman Jacob Clabaugh. "We didn't have the best season last year, but we as a team never gave up and we kept fighting until the end. So, I really think that's going to benefit us a long way through the season."
The Lions have the personnel to be more competitive this season, but their schedule doesn't exactly get any easier. St. Joseph Christian travels to No. 8 Worth County, and also has home games with No. 6 North Andrew and No. 2 King City/Union Star.
"Northwestern Missouri has really good 8-man football," Schenk remarked. "They have teams that year in and year out are competing for the state title. And, we're in a tough Grand River Conference where we see some of the top teams week in and week out."
The Lions kick off their season at home against the team they used to share a sideline with - Northland Christian.
"It's going to be exciting for both teams," Schenk said happily. "I mean, we know those guys. We like a lot of those guys. We're excited. They'll be hyped up to play, we'll be hyped up to play. It's almost like two new programs going against each other for the first time. It's really your best friends, so playing against each other for the first time is going to be a lot of fun for both teams."
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