IN THE NEWS: “Sherwood Christian’s Big Adventure: All the Pieces Just Fell in Place”

An article about SCA’s 2022 Varsity Football Season from The Albany Herald by Joe Whitfield, Albany Herald Staff Correspondent. Read the article at the Herald’s website here.

ALBANY — The Sherwood Christian Academy Eagles will play Unity Christian School of Rome Friday night for the GAPPS Class AA state championship in 8-man football.

When interim head coach Kenny Roberts took on the challenge, he had no idea this is where his team would be at the end of the season.

“I took it because I didn’t want the football program to die,” Roberts said in an interview Monday afternoon. “After Coach (Chad) Evans resigned, Dr. Dougherty (Sherwood headmaster Brian Dougherty) and I began looking for a new football coach. We interviewed a couple of coaches and actually made an offer to one of them, but he withdrew his name because he decided he didn’t want to move. I told Dr. Dougherty I would step in because there were nine eighth-graders (rising ninth-graders) who wanted to play and could be a good start for the school. Since then, all of the pieces have just been falling together.”

Those pieces included great help from assistant coaches with the same goals in mind and a couple of key additions to the team in seniors Graham Anderson and Maddox Powers. Neither of these players was with the team when Roberts took over the program before spring practice last year. But now they are crucial members of the team about to play for a state title.

“Graham (Anderson) is the catalyst for our team when it comes to character,” said Roberts. “He has truly helped our team develop their character and I told him recently I didn’t want to do this without him here. And Maddox (Powers), some of our eighth-graders met him at a church camp. He was their leader at camp and then he ended up transferring to Sherwood. There is a real connection with him. Some of them even called him ‘Daddox.”

Anderson plays defensive end and left guard. Maddox plays fullback and defensive end for the Eagles. Anderson has been at Sherwood for 13 years and played football up until ninth grade before deciding not to return. He felt led to play and his friends on the team helped convince him to come back, along with a great deal of prayer. Powers is a transfer from Lee County after moving to the area from North Carolina during the COVID era.

“When everything kept falling into place,” said Roberts, “we realized about mid-season that we might be able to make a run at state.”

The Eagles are 10-1 on the year and have won nine in a row. They have scored fewer than 50 points in only three games all season with a freshman quarterback.

Quarterback Tripp Roberts is Coach Roberts’ son and has thrown for 1,341 yards and 20 touchdowns this season on a team that primarily runs the ball. Running back Easton Enfinger is the main running threat and has 1,541 yards rushing with 25 touchdowns.

“I’m a little surprised at his statistics, but not at Tripp’s ability,” Coach Roberts said of his son Tripp. “He has wanted to be the quarterback since he was very young. He has put in the work. He has had a growth spurt of about three inches in the last year or so. He is a serious kid who works when no one else is working,” the coach said. “I knew he would learn the playbook quickly because I knew how serious he was about playing quarterback. It has been fun to watch him this year.”

“With Easton, he is really fast,” said Roberts. “But he is a super hard worker and has excellent leg strength and great natural vision to see what is happening. There are a lot of plays where he just gets three, four, or five yards, but he just keeps working and he has to push through that. I’m proud of his toughness and his fight to keep pushing when I know he is exhausted.”

But all of this still doesn’t explain how the Eagles went from almost not having a team to where they are now — about to play for the state championship.

“We’ve worked very hard to be consistent in the weight room,” Roberts said. “We started working three days a week this summer and it has continued into the school year. The boys come to school before 7 a.m. three days a week to lift before school starts. It is our willingness to put in the work that has a lot to do with our success.”

But there is more. The coaches and others made real investments in the players.

“We’ve been very intentional on making sure these players learn lessons that will help them in life, not just on the football field. We wanted to invest in these boys and teach them things that will help when they get into tough situations and learn that you do things the right way,” the coach added.

“We’ve had other people invest in these boys by bringing a pre-game breakfast on game day and a pre-game meal later that day. We wanted the boys to feel live someone was investing in them. We wanted to let them know that they are loved by their coaches. We wanted to let them know they are special and valuable, not because of their statistics, but because of who they are.”

The coach said all of these investments showed up earlier this season when the Eagles were in a tough battle with Vidalia Heritage in Vidalia. The Eagles managed to come home with a 58-54 win but not without some real fight.

“We were in the game where we had been flagged 13 times for penalties and the other team had gotten two,” said Roberts. “Our guys didn’t whine and complain. It would have been easy to complain and give up. Instead, they just put their heads down and pushed even harder and won the game.”

Vidalia Heritage made it to the state semifinals before falling to Unity of Rome last week by a final of 52-8. The score was eye-opening because Sherwood barely survived against Vidalia, but Roberts said the film he saw showed Vidalia fumbled at least seven times because its starting quarterback suffered an injury and they were unable to run their offense effectively. While Unity is a good football team and will be challenging, Roberts believes his Eagles will be ready to face another tough challenge.

Kickoff for Friday’s game at Sherwood Christian is set for 7:30 p.m.

SCA Varsity Athletes mentioned in this article (L to R): Graham Anderson, Maddox Powers, Tripp Roberts, Easton Enfinger

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