E.A. Sports Today

Faith in football

JCA – rather Faith Temple of Jacksonville – is undefeated in its 8-man Christian league season so far; Thunder coach Miller doesn’t rule out return to AHSAA in the future, but it ‘depends’

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – The football players who go to Jacksonville Christian Academy are playing football this fall. It’s just not the kind of football most folks in these parts see around the county on Friday night.

The Thunder, who suspended 11-man football in the Alabama High School Athletics Association in 2017, is playing 8-man football on Friday nights these days. It’s not under the banner of JCA, although the team carries the Thunder nickname, plays its home games at the school and is coached by JCA headmaster and athletics director Tommy Miller.

Instead, it’s playing in the Alabama Christian Football Association under the auspices of Faith Temple of Jacksonville. The only stipulation to play in that league is all the players must be from the same school.

“That’s the only way our kids would have had a chance to play,” Miller said. “Pastor Frank Reid made the final decision for the church to put a team in there and those folks at the Christian Football Association agreed under those special rules.”

All the rest of the Thunder’s sports programs are under the AHSAA umbrella. Miller said he had two hour-long meetings with AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese this summer so he knew what had to be done and he followed Savarese’s guidance.

“We could not play as JCA,” he said. “Our kids could play just like it was travel ball or whatever, they could play, but it could not be JCA.”

It may seem confusing and Miller said there have been calls made, but when he has gotten calls asking what his school was doing with football this year he’s told them Jacksonville Christian Academy is not playing. Adding to the confusion is some have said they saw the Thunder’s schedule on the AHSAA’s new Dragonfly reporting app, but Miller believes it was placed there by the officials’ association, which uses that portal for scheduling its crews.

The Thunder is 3-0 and plays Tabernacle Christian of Gardendale at home Friday night. 

Miller believes a return to the AHSAA football for JCA is “very possible down the road,” but it “really depends on how we go.” It dropped varsity football due to a lack of numbers and safety concerns. Miller has been the program’s only coach.

It’s still a young team. Among the 16 players the Thunder dressed for its first three games, three were seventh-graders, including quarterback Noah Lee, and three were eighth-graders.

“We can’t play in the AHSAA, 11-man football, like that; it’s just too dangerous,” Miller said. “The 8-man Christian league, as far as football goes, is much more suited to small Christian schools. So many of those schools are like we are. Now, the team we played last Friday night (Cornerstone of Rainsville), they literally had around 500 kids K-4 through 12. We have about 125 right now and that’s down a little because of COVID. It was the most physical game we’ve had in a long time.”

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