They’re called Crusaders at Northwest Christian. So it makes sense to field a football team, right?
That wasn’t what piqued interest at the Colbert school because it’s an idea that’s bounced around for about six years.
After some initial consideration, the idea finally took on legs about 20 months ago. After a preliminary study, the school board last spring approved fielding a team, beginning this fall.
The Northeast 2B is embracing NWC’s decision with open arms. A bigger league means finding fewer nonleague games.
It goes far beyond that, though.
“I’m excited about it,” Colfax coach Mike Morgan said. “We’ve been waiting for this to come about for six years.”
The league knows that in time NWC will be competitive – just like it is in other sports.
“We realize, as coaches, that we’re asking for Goliath to come in,” Morgan said. “We think Northwest Christian will make us an even better league. Look at the athletes they’ve had in other sports. They could be talented right away. It’ll be interesting watching them put everything together.”
NWC hired its coach in mid March. Jim Nendel, an assistant coach for 10 years at Whitworth, has been given the task of building the program.
“He really fits the mission of our faith-based school,” Ray Ricks, principal and boys basketball coach, said. “His experience and his abilities to connect with players stood out. His football expertise also stood out.”
It’s been quite the journey to launch the program.
“We’ve done a lot of homework and research,” Ricks said.
What Ricks and his committee discovered was a lot of interest in the sport.
“We’ve had a number of kids over the years play football in the districts they live,” Ricks said. “It’s a popular sport in Spokane and it’s no different here. We’ve found that a lot of our younger students in elementary and middle school are already playing the sport. And we noticed a pocket of students in the fall that didn’t have a sport to play.”
For good or bad, football is a sport that can set a tone at a school every year. Ricks understands and appreciates it. He also realizes there could be bumps along the way.
“I’m sure we’ll find some loose ends,” Ricks said. “We don’t know how it will shake out. Some of our kids have played a lot of youth football and we have some who have never strapped on a helmet. It will be a real learning curve the first couple of years.”
About 35 kids showed up to a meeting last month to meet Nendel. That didn’t include incoming freshmen. It’s Ricks’ hope to field varsity and junior varsity teams.
NWC will play its home games at Riverside, about a 15-minute drive from Colbert.
Ricks has been assured by coaches in the league that they will help the Crusaders get their feet under themselves this fall. In other words, they’ll back off the throttle if a score begins to get out of hand.
“It’s a gentlemen’s agreement. We want to make sure we’re taking care of each other,” Ricks said.
Nendel is looking forward to building a program.
“It’s an opportunity to challenge student athletes, not just on the field but off the field,” Nendel said. “The mission of the school is to develop character and that is what I’ve always been about.”
Nendel is looking forward to the challenge.
“The biggest challenge is catching up the kids who haven’t had much experience playing and teach them,” he said. “Then we want to mold the team and develop a football culture. They’ve had great success in other sports.”