The Augusta Eagles homeschool football program opened its season yesterday, playing host to East Atlanta at Lions Memorial Field in North Augusta.
That seemed improbable in July.
“I feel great, actually, considering a month ago we had eight kids on the team,” said first-year head coach Chris Smith on opening the season. “Now we’re up to about 27. It seems like every week we get two or three more players in.”
As well as homeschool students, players who go to schools without a football program can compete with the Eagles, who are in their second season in the Glory For Christ Football league. Having that many players means they can do things they couldn’t last year when they started with 16 players, like have a full scout team.
Smith, who took over in early July, likes what he is getting out of his squad thus far.
“This has been a joy,” Smith said. “I’ve been coaching for 15 years and there is zero bad attitude and it’s all positive attitude and we have a lot of scholars on this team as well.”
There are still basic things to overcome. With new players trickling in, getting everybody on the same page at the same time is hard, but Smith knows it’s part of the process.
“It’s definitely a challenge but we’re trying to grow this program,” Smith said. “I make them no promises when they show up. We would love to have you but we’re trying to build something that’s sustainable for years to come, whether I’m around or not.”
Senior wide receiver/free safety Nathan Wells played with Augusta Christian and Lakeside in the past before being homeschooled last year. As well as being a leader to those with little or no football experience, Wells is relishing the experience.
“I’m really going to cherish this whole year, Wells said.
“I’m excited for it, building friendships with these guys I’ve never met before.”
No longer practicing at Liberty Park in Grovetown, the Eagles have been getting ready for their season at Blanchard Park, but that ends this week.
“The challenge is once rec league starts, then we’ll have to relocate,” said Smith, who added he had a line on a new site.
Smith was working with the quarterbacks when he learned the season might be in jeopardy in July. His current QB helped influence his decision to take the job,
“He (Shaver) was working all season long – offseason since the spring,” Smith said. “He’s the first one I thought of when they said they were going to lose their season unless they find a coach.”
Shaver, a first-year player who is a junior at South Aiken Christian School, was ready for the season to start.
“It’s going to be fun” Shaver said. “We’re going to have to see what happens but we’re ready.”