Hope Christian prepares for football opener

After a 9-4 season resulting in a National Association of Christian Athletes Division III football title, some teams may find it easy to become complacent.

Heading into 2010, Hope Christian School isn’t one of them.

“(Last year’s success) hasn’t really been a distraction,” said head coach Mark Rettig.

In fact, Rettig said this year’s squad still has a lot of room for improvement with the season opener against Heritage Christian School of Brantley set for Friday, Aug. 13.

“We’re aiming at all of our seasonal games,” Rettig said. “We want to go undefeated.”

Having veteran experience is a good starting point, and that’s exactly what Rettig’s team has coming back. Hope Christian returns 20 starters from last year’s championship team, and the Eagles will be counting on the leadership of 12 seniors.

Rettig said he believes those numbers will pay off during the season.

“We will have a little more understanding of a season,” Rettig said. “We have 45 guys, which is our largest team in the last eight years. We’ve got a lot to choose from.”

The Eagles are in the middle of their fourth week of preseason practice, and Rettig has seen a noticeable difference in some of his players thanks to a new workout plan implemented during the summer.

“Guys are a lot stronger than they have been,” Rettig said.

This year’s preseason camp has also come with many days of extreme heat in the area. While Rettig said he and the other coaches have been monitoring the players amid the high temperatures, they still have a job to do.

“We’ve still got to hit a little to get the body used to the impact of the sport,” Rettig said. “Most of the guys have reacted real well to the physical requirements.”

One position that has caught the eye of Rettig during fall camp is the offensive line – a unit with multiple players who could possibly play at the next level.

“I’m expecting a lot of good things out of the offensive line,” Rettig said. “They’ve shown a lot of good traits.”

Much of the season’s success could hinge on the play of senior quarterback Zac Hughes, a returning starter.

“He’s fairly speedy and athletic,” Rettig said of his signal caller. “As far as being athletic, he’s good.”

Hope Christian won’t have much longer to wait and see if it can build on the success of last season, as the Eagles host Heritage Christian on Friday. Rettig said his coaching staff has been watching film on their opponent for a couple weeks, and he expects to see the same Heritage Christian team as years past.

“They like to run the ball more than anything else,” Rettig said. “They will mix in a pass every now and then.”

The Eagles are confident they have the perfect remedy for the Crusaders’ rushing attack.

“We’ve got a strong (defensive) front,” Rettig said.

In the case that Heritage Academy does throw in a new wrinkle offensively, Rettig said his team has to be ready to make in-game changes, a component that Rettig views as a key for the entire season.

“Both teams have to make adjustments based on the two teams that show up,” Rettig said. “In the past, we haven’t been able to make the adjustments. That will be key.”

As for how the mixture of veterans and newcomers will come together, Rettig couldn’t provide an answer.

“We’ll see on Friday night,” Rettig said.