By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
HARRINGTON, Del.—For the past five years, 11th grader Jake Stolle could not play football because his Christian school did not have a football program.
But on this cloudy day, on a practice field owned by Harrington (Del.) Baptist Church, he is suited up, listening intently as head coach, Dan Young, discusses their first game.
The Eastern Shore Bucks will play Mid-Atlantic Christian Conference teams as well as other teams from schools in Maryland and Virginia.
Affiliated with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Bucks are a Christian varsity football program for homeschool and private school students in grades 9-12 who do not have access to a football program.
Young wanted to give “kids a chance to have their choice of education and still play football.” Young is a physical education teacher at Georgetown (Del.) Elementary School.
“Football is a sport that takes dedication, commitment, sacrifice and passion. The goal of this program is to teach these great qualities with an emphasis on Christian faith as well,” said Young.
“Our success will not be determined at the end of the season, but years from now when our players are adults with careers and families. Our prayer is that they will be Christian leaders, fathers and husbands who are dedicated, committed, sacrificial and passionate about their faith, family and careers. If we can get that, we know we are succeeding,” he said.
So far, there are 20 athletes, who are either homeschooled or come from four area schools, including Delmarva Christian High School, Greenwood Mennonite School, and even the public schools, Mardela Middle and Mardela High.
Some students and their families drive an hour one way—from Salisbury and Queen Anne’s County—three days a week for team practices.
Xavier Townsend’s family is among them. Xavier recently started attending Mardela High, which is “a less intense environment” than where he previously attended, said Gregory Townsend, his father. A strong Christian, he was concerned about the extreme competitiveness and the challenges of his son’s previous larger high school.
“We were going to forego the football season, but I now have peace about where Xavier is going,” he said.
For Stolle, son of Tom Stolle, the chief financial officer for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, this is a great opportunity to have football as a part of his teen’s schedule.
“Football is a collision sport, and every player will be challenged,” shared the elder Stolle. “Because there are only 20 players, that means the players all get to play!”
Before practice, Cameron Manaraze, a 12th grade homeschool student from Greenwood, Del., voiced his gratitude in an opening prayer. “Thank you for putting this on Coach Dan’s heart to do this, so we can go to our schools and still play football,” he said.
“It’s a proud moment, just to get a team on the field for their first game,” wrote fan David Van Risseghem on the team’s Facebook page. “Many boys will live out dreams they never dared to hope for. Delaware is a better place to live, because of the effort being put into the next generation of leaders.”