School: Calvary Christian
2013 record: 6-5
Key players: Mason Kent, Anthony Santiago, Jacquez Green, Taylor Faulk
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Key game: vs. Covenant Christian Academy, Sept. 19 (away) and Oct. 31 (home)
Outlook: Four years ago, Calvary Christian was a fledgling program, trying to get off the ground in its first year in existence.
Now, the team is coming off a loss in the ICSGA semifinals, entering a new association (Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association) and sporting a roster players think can get the team to the next level.
“Last year we got to the final four,” senior offensive and defensive lineman Mason Kent said. “This year, we’re expecting a championship.”
Why not? Kent and two others are going into their fourth seasons as starters for the Knights, the first three players to do so in program history. There will be a new signal caller under center, but there is also junior fullback Anthony Santiago, who carried 136 times for 1,083 yards and 16 touchdowns in only six starts last season.
There are a handful of sophomores littering the starting lineup, but the majority are juniors and seniors. And even the underclassmen have proven they can contribute on this team. Sophomore Jacquez Green ran for 461 yards and eight touchdowns last year, sophomore defensive tackle Steven Fowler notched 30 tackles and three sacks as a freshman, sophomore linebacker Crawford Ledbetter had 25 tackles and sophomore safety Cody Russell had a pair of interceptions.
“Starting football four years ago, most of the guys had never played and didn’t know the game,” coach Brian Osborne said. “Now, their knowledge is growing. We’ve got a few guys who will be four-year starters. That’ll be a first for us.”
Also, Osborne said the team is finishing the summer with 39 players on its roster, a step up for where the program has been in its first three seasons.
More players means more depth, which can make all the difference in a league like the GICAA.
More than anything, though, the Knights are hungrier than they’ve ever been, according to Santiago. After the team fell short in the playoffs last year, the drive reached a new level.
“We were heartbroken,” he said. “We were so close, so when we came back, we wanted it that much more.”
At this point, it’s still too early to say whether they’ll get there or not. If they don’t, it won’t be for lack of progress.
When it comes down to it, this program is still in its infancy. But if it continues going in the direction at the rate it is going, high levels of success undoubtedly await.