I know this isn't SEC, but thought you would enjoy it.
Adrian Chism calls his high school football team “the few, the proud.”
Chism is a former Marine. He also is the first-year head coach at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, whose football troops number only 13 players, none bigger than 180 pounds. Nine had never played organized football before this season.
The team has no practice field of its own and has one football.
“I’ve been told by coaches and some of my friends that it’s suicide to take 13 guys into battle like that, but I’m a country boy from Bolivar, Tenn., and I’m a former Marine, and I think we can do anything,” Chism said. “When the whistle blows, they never quit. They’re like little Marines.”
Football for a high school of fewer than 100 students is a challenge in any case, but economic woes were especially rough this off-season at SACA, the private academy best known for three state basketball championships and one famous alumnus, the NBA’s Dwight Howard.
Several of the team’s football players — which typically have numbered between 20 and 25 — were forced to transfer for financial reasons. Finances also played a part in not having helmets and shoulder pads reconditioned in time to play the first two games, which resulted in forfeits to North Cobb Christian and Our Lady of Mercy.
SACA has played six games since — losing by an average score of 58-3. The team’s record is 0-8 with two games to play.
Nevertheless, Casetta Simmons says this is a team that has “won the hearts of many” in the SACA community and beyond. Her son, Jovantae Simmons, is a top basketball player who is playing football for the first time.
“I have coached a little in my time, and I would always tell my players it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how you play the game,” she said. “This team has taken that statement to a completely different level. They play to the bitter end and have been complimented by their opponents for playing with heart and displaying Christianity as never seen before.”
Chism, the director of Internet technology at the school, and his assistant, Stan Wallace, are the only full-time coaches. Neither is paid. They’ve spent some of their own money for equipment and meals.
The school doesn’t have a football field. At least twice a week, the team practices on the asphalt of the school parking lot. The other days, the team gets in the coaches’ cars and drives about a mile to a vacant field that has a for-sale sign on it.
”I am afraid that one day we will go over to that field to practice and it’s going to be sold and have locks on the gate, and we will not have anywhere to practice,” Chism said.
The team doesn’t have enough jerseys for linemen (with Nos. 50-79). The coaches have used tape to change No. 11 to No. 71. There is only one senior on the team. Most players weigh less than 150 pounds. Two are special-needs children.
But Chism said his gang of 13 has responded in ways that even he didn’t imagine, inspiring even opponents. Although two of the original 15 players transferred, none of the 13 has quit.
The most memorable moment took place Sept. 21 in game at Gordon Lee in Chickamauga, a small town best known for a Civil War battle. SACA’s players and its student body are predominantly African-American. Chism acknowledges that parents sometimes express anxiety about traveling. This time, they were in for a surprise.
After losing 55-8, SACA players went to their sideline and began to pray, as they do after every sporting event. Soon, Gordon Lee players spontaneously came across the field to join them. They invited SACA players and family to join Gordon Lee’s “Fifth Quarter” party that follows every home game, which includes food, music and fellowship at a nearby Methodist church.
“At first I thought I was in ‘Remember the Titans,”’ Chism said. “They had a live band, and they were cooking. As soon as they saw us, fans stopped our cars, and the whole town gave us a standing ovation. I wished we’d had a little more time. The food was great. It was a great lesson.”
Chism said fans from other teams almost always come on the field after the game and encourage his players. In Trion last month, a man asked Chism if he could shake the hands of each player. He gave them hugs and choked back tears.
As a Marine, Chism fought in Iraq and Kuwait. He is classified as a disabled veteran for injuries to his knee and spine, although he says they don’t interfere with his coaching.
Chism also is a proud Eagle Scout, and he has taught his players Scout Law: “A Scout is: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”
“He’s very upbeat, very positive,” said John East, the coach at Walker. “He feels obligated to those kids. He served in the military and defended our country. You can just tell that he’s committed to serving others.”
Chism says he has found himself moved to tears a few times. He called them tears of joy.
“The scores you’re looking at don’t show the great things that have happened,” Chism said. “We’re a Christian school, and there’s a scoreboard in heaven, too. We haven’t lost a game on that scoreboard.”