I still do not know if this is official but if I wait any longer we will be roaring through state playoffs and the fun will have escaped me. When I got wind of Head Coach Lee Sawyer potentially putting his charges on the field against an out of state team it drove me into a research frenzy. Calls, messages, telegrams and smoke signals went out to all my buddies across the Middle Atlantic States in search of someone who could tell me about The Eastern Christian Academy Football Team. Finally, after what can only be described as superb intelligence operations, I discovered someone who has reason to believe he knows the answer, Jon Buzby of The Newark Post. Based in part on some of Jon’s information here it is.
Come to find out that last season 30, give or take a couple, of the football players that the Rebels will face in August played for Red Lion Christian Academy. Eastern Christian Academy Football was formed after Red Lion’s administration decided to change the direction of its football program, from playing a national schedule as an independent back to competing under the guidelines of The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association. Red Lion’s decision was rendered shortly after the end of last season, and it was then that former Red Lion head coach Dwayne Thomas, who will serve as head coach at Eastern Christian, and a group of parents decided they needed to continue to move their talented team forward, and not take a step back.
One might ask just how did they decide to move their talented team forward. They enrolled the kids in National Connections Academy and named themselves Eastern Christian. Fifty students have enrolled in the school, which was established in 2003 and, according to its website, serves more than 60,000 people, providing “an affordable, private virtual school option to students seeking a rigorous, but flexible education.” The program is sanctioned and accredited by the state of Maryland and Eastern Christian Academy is considered a program under the school’s umbrella. Unlike many online schools, the Eastern Christian students will gather in appropriate groups in classrooms to take the online courses and will have academic coaches (teachers) in the classroom to supplement the online teachers. “This creates a school setting for socialization, which we feel is important,” said interim head of school Chris Purnell. “It allows the students to move at their own pace with an individualized curriculum. It is much harder than a normal school where much of the teaching is done to the middle of the class. Here, the kids are encouraged to progress into honors and advanced placement courses. The course selection is outstanding, including many high-level courses and many languages.” In addition, players will be required to volunteer in the community and compete on at least one academically related school team. “We strongly believe these players need to be well-rounded Christian young men, not just athletes,” Thomas added. “In a way, we are requiring more of them off the field than a traditional high school would.”
So, the mysterious Ethernets will play a national schedule this fall, having already had verbal discussions with and contracts drawn to play several national powers (I think that includes us). And yes, they will play to win and hope to be ranked in the Top 25 in the country. But Thomas continued to reiterate that football will be secondary to making a difference in the lives of the young men who are being coached. “Young people today have every opportunity to fail,” Thomas said emphatically. “So if we can find a way for them to succeed, we have to strongly direct them on that successful path.”
– Jack Reece