Stephenville FAITH homeschool looked like a team fighting to repeat as Texas Christian Athletic League Division II state champions in their opening scrimmage in Bluff Dale Saturday.
And it wasn't much of a fight as the Knights quickly TKO'd their opponent from Moran, a struggling UIL six-man program.
Physical running back and linebacker Daniel Winkler, new running back Josh Yant and Chance Lyon combined for seven touchdowns on the ground, backup quarterback Joey Braun passed for two scores and the Knights found the end zone ten times while shutting out Moran.
"Effort and attitude, those were the biggest things," said FAITH head coach Cody Martin. "We try to pride ourselves on not playing to the level of competition. Moran has some decent players and could develop some things down the road, but they aren't where we're at right now and we did a good job of playing at our level and not down to the level of our opponent."
FAITH was limited due to preseason injury and illness - Shadd Cole has a minor lower back problem and played just 15 downs at quarterback and none on defense while Jared Veldhuizen played only limited snaps at linebacker due to a respiratory illness and Aaron Snyder missed the scrimmage with a pulled muscle in his shoulder. Running back Jacob Thompson, who joined Winkler, Cole and Veldhuizen on the TCAL all-state team last season, was also out.
"Those aren't major things, we can be thankful for that," Martin said on Monday. "The good news is those guys should all be ready by next week."
The Knights have more depth than in their first two seasons on the gridiron, and proved it Saturday.
"We were extremely limited as far as the availability of some of our veterans, but it was good because our young guys got a lot of looks and they gained a lot of confidence," Martin said. "We're a whole lot better off now than last year mainly because of depth. I remember last year when Winkler and Thompson were out for our first scrimmage, I was a lot more nervous then than I was (Saturday) because we had less bodies, less depth."
Yant, who left Granbury Cornerstone Christian to join the Knights, scored three times.
"He's learning our way of doing things, but personality-wise he's a good fit and he's a physical football player so that's a good fit, too," Martin said. "By the time wee zero comes, he'll be complete 100 percent a Knight."
Jayce Martin is another new player who joined FAITH from Stephenville High School.
"Jayce had two big tackles and two catches," Coach Martin said. "He's fitting in and is a good addition for us, too."
Braun, just a freshman, was 7-10 passing with the two scores, one to Winkler and one to Justin Baugh.
"With Shadd limited, (Braun) did just what we needed him to," Martin said. "He came in and executed our offense. We were able to continue to make progress and work on things with him in there, and that's a big plus."
Cole was under strict instruction not to run, but as Martin put it, "That's like telling an eagle not to fly," so sure enough, when forced to scramble, off Cole went.
"He did take off one time, but he scored on it so that's OK," Martin said with a laugh."
Cole also completed one of two passes during his limited action.
The stepping up of reserves may have been the biggest thing Martin was watching for, but Winkler, who rushed for four scores and had a TD catch, stole the show.
"When Winkler was out there on defense he hit everything that moved, I mean everything in sight," Martin said. "And then he scored five times on offense, so that's pretty good, too."
Martin said the preparation Winkler has put into his season is a perfect example of one of the Knights' favorite quotes.
"'Our confidence is in our preparation,'" Martin quoted. "We may be home-schooled, but if we prepare to win a 5A championship, we believe we will win the (TCAL) championship. We don't want a 5A player in the state outworking a single one of our players. If you prepare to be the best, you can be the best. It doesn't matter where you go to school, even if that's in your living room."
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