It’s the little school that can.
First Presbyterian Christian Academy has emerged as the small private school that can and has established a successful group of athletes and sports programs.
The boys’ basketball team has won three state titles, several region titles and was last year’s region champs and state runners up. The girls’ soccer team was last season’s region champs and state runners up and the baseball team made it all the way to the state playoffs as well.
The determination of the athletes and the school’s administration pushed FPCA to the No. 3 spot of Under Armour’s Undeniable Challenge, nearly netting it a $140,000 prize. The support the school received from the community and other schools toppled several of their competitors — schools with three times its enrollment numbers or larger.
Now the little school will dive into its first season of football, and Highlander athletic director and football coach Andy Yanzetich said he is both excited and nervous.
“I’m a little nervous…just trying to get everybody here at one time,” he said. “We’ve had everybody come through, but not at one time. But the excitement of just playing football…it hasn’t been done here. They can always say they started something that hadn’t been done and they were the first ones.”
FPCA’s athletes are all primarily multi-sport athletes. Like most private schools, it’s the nature of the beast.
Yanzetich said some of his potential football players are still completing their summer sports programs playing AAU basketball. A few of the baseball players are expected to give the grid-iron a try.
Conditioning has started, but getting everyone at practice at the same time is still a work in progress. Yanzetich said once everyone is on board they will begin to work on learning the offense.
“We are going to run the spread offense, so it takes time and gelling together and being on the same page,” he said. “The timing between quarterbacks and receivers has to be right, the lineman have to work together to pick up the blitz packages…that’s the part I’m a little nervous about because we have yet to get together as a team to do that stuff.”
Yanzetich said potential football players need to understand that much like any sport, workouts and practice require full time commitment. He understands this year’s roster will likely be small but thinks it will pick up next year once the school has its first season under its belt.
“We are definitely going to have a lot of players going both ways,” Yanzetich said. “I’m thinking we will probably have a roster of 25 and maybe even a little under that.”
He added that the athletes at FPCA are used to playing year-round sports, have experience in playing in big games and like to win.
He said the hardest group to develop, at first, will be the linemen.
“It will be pretty obvious who fits the linemen type,” he said. “Right off the bat we are not going to have a lot of linemen.”
The Highlanders will play at Long Bell Stadium at Liberty Independent Troop Park.
One thing Yanzetich doesn’t have to worry about is the team’s uniform and equipment.
“We received a lot of donations from different schools, a lot of private donations that want to see football work out here have helped out,” he said. “One of my really good friends owns a sporting goods store in Atlanta so we’ve been getting a lot of donations through them. And right now we have all the equipment we need in the sense of shoulder pads, helmets and knee pads. Also we aren’t looking at fielding 80-90 players so we don’t need that much equipment … I’m assuming the most we will have here is 40-50 players ever. So it won’t be as costly as bigger schools.”
The coach added that they are trying to get more sponsors and will spend the summer raising funds to help cover costs of traveling to away games, feeding the athletes, washing uniforms and incidentals.
“The first year is going to be expensive, but it won’t be so bad after that,” he said.