Led by Life Christian Academy head coach Vince Cutliff, foreground, center, the Warriors’ second-year program — which plays 8-man football — is in the playoffs one year after going winless. (email@example.com)
ALBANY — Things were so bad when Life Christian Academy played its first football game last season that coach Vince Cutliff never went to bed.
“I stayed up all night writing plays,” Cutliff said.
He’s sleeping much better these days. So are the kids at LCA, where the football program made one of those believe-it-or-not turnarounds this season.
Just look at that game against Colonial from a year ago when LCA played its first-ever game. The final score was a 78-8 nightmare. That started a winless season for the Warriors, who had some thoughts that maybe football wasn’t for them.
When LCA played Colonial this year, the score was exactly the same: 78-8. Only this time, the kids from Fourth Street in Albany won.
That’s how far the infant football program has grown in a year, and now the Warriors, who went 7-3 this season, are in the playoffs tonight against top-seeded Heritage.
“I think we can beat them,’’ said LCA tailback Keon Perkins, who has rushed for 1,012 yards this season.
And why not? After what the LCA kids have done in one year, nothing seems impossible. They are still young and have as many eighth-graders (five) on the team as seniors (five), but the Warriors can score points, and that’s what it’s all about in 8-man football, where LCA has scored 531 points this season.
There are only 10 teams in the Independent Christian Schools Association of Georgia league they play in, and only eight of those are in the playoffs. It takes three victories to win a state title.
“That’s what we want, a state title,” said Dontravious Simms, a quarterback who was being home-schooled a year ago. “We knew we would make it (to the playoffs). We want a championship.’’
Simms, who has rushed for 1,983 yards on 76 carries, joined the team this summer, and Cutliff started drawing up plays to take advantage of his newfound speed.
“I saw a difference this summer,” he said. “I saw we had super speed. I had more than one guy with super speed. We had some athletes. We had a group of eight or nine kids who really worked hard this summer.’’
Cutliff played cornerback at Westover and at Georgia Southern, where he was a part of a national title team, but after getting a degree in industrial engineering he never thought he would coach football.
“I love it,’’ he said during practice Thursday. “I’m glad they started football here. The headmaster (Garvin Aikridge) had wanted to have a football team for a while and started it last year.’’
Then they opened with the disaster against Colonial.
“It was horrible, just awful,” said Cutliff, who was an assistant last year and took over as head coach this year. “We questioned it and wondered if we jumped into it too fast.’’
The school stuck with football, and the kids came back to prove it wasn’t a mistake.
“When we played Colonial this year they really wanted to pay that team back for what happened last year,” the coach said.
They did. Perkins, a senior, said it was the best feeling to beat them.
“It was awesome,’’ he said. “I wanted to go home and jump up and down on the couch. I was as happy as I could be.’’
It changed everything for the team.
“Last year, we were kind of learning,’’ Perkins said. “For a lot of us, it was the first time we had ever played football. It was tough. I knew we couldn’t quit, but we all hated losing. I just wanted to win one game so bad. I knew if we won one game then we could get it going.”
That’s what happened this year. Now the whole school is talking about the football team.
“Last year, (students) didn’t talk to us much, but the school is excited about football now,’’ Perkins said. “I know we can beat (Heritage). They beat us earlier this year, but we are new and improved. We didn’t have a football team my first two years here, but when we got a team, I told my mom I wanted to play football. I was super excited to play. It was hard last year, but we’re (in the playoffs). We want to go all the way.”