Brethren Christian High waltzed to a 9-1 record in 2016. Unfortunately, since the Academy League broke up three months before that season, it forced the Warriors to play as a freelance team.
And as a freelance team, there wasn’t any room in the CIF Southern Section Division 10 playoffs for an at-large entry like Brethren Christian.
More misfortune struck when Brethren Christian football took a hiatus in 2017 because of low numbers.
Last spring, hopes sprang eternal with the introduction of Leon Green as the new coach of Brethren Christian’s 8-man football outfit.
Green fittingly bleeds Brethren Christian green. He’s an alumnus, as well as former teacher and assistant coach of the 11-man team. Athletic Director Stacey Whitmire relayed to him the importance of his connection to the school.
“She knew me,” Green said. “The faculty and parents knew my heart. They knew that I know the Brethren culture. This team needed a guy to understand that, especially with the present expectations of a new team.”
The first step was assembling some semblance of a roster. He needed to break misconceptions about the 8-man game versus the 11-man one.
“It’s still football, guys,” Green would say to his players. “The schemes and formations may be different, but the philosophy is the same. Internally, we had to sell to our players that they could be a part of something new.”
Green is leading his young men on a daunting journey, as he builds a program from scratch with several players without any playing experience.
“I guarantee our experience is different than the rest of the league,” he said. “Most of the kids trying out played flag, but few, if any, played tackle.”
With the nascent nature of the program, it’s even premature to guess who plays at which position.
“I’ve never seen them in live action,” Green said. “I see potential, but I don’t really have an idea until we go for real. What I can say is that my players’ work ethic is top-notch, and they’re rolling with every punch I throw at them.”
They knew that I know the Brethren culture. This team needed a guy to understand that, especially with the present expectations of a new team.
The key for Green, he said, is the execution of simple game plans, rather than the implementation of a complex playbook.
“In previous years, I tried to game plan with 20 different formations, 10 to 15 plays a formation,” he said with a laugh. “It led to too much thinking. I want players to react rather than think. While I may implement more blitzes or wrinkles as the year goes along, we need to start slow.”
As the safety of football is leading some schools to disband programs, Brethren Christian represents the rare example of a school restarting one. Whitmire and Green stated the football team is part of the identity of the school, and parents want the playing opportunities for their sons.
“I’m sure some parents are skeptical due to concussions and CTE,” Green said, “but this is how I think about it. Every time I interact with the young men, I approach it as if I’m sending my son into the drill. This forces a certain attention to detail. We need football to be taught in a way that lets players grow, get tested, and end up stronger and still safe.”
Brethren Christian will participate in the Western Athletic Conference’s Express League. The Warriors’ season opener is Friday at San Pedro Rolling Hills Prep at 3:15 p.m.
Brethren Christian Warriors
CIF Southern Section 8-man Division: 1
Coach: Leon Green (first year)
Staff: Russ Duren (assistant/line)
Offensive scheme: Multiple
Defensive scheme: 2-3
24 — at San Pedro Rolling Hills Prep*, 3:15 p.m.
1 — vs. Sage Hill*, 11 a.m.
8 — at La Verne Lutheran*, 11 a.m.
15 — vs. Avalon*, 12 p.m.
21 — vs. Downey Calvary Chapel*, 4 p.m.
27 — vs. Palm Springs Desert Chapel, 4 p.m.
18 — at Silverado St. Michael’s Prep*, 3:30 p.m.
*denotes league game
SAM DODGE is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @samgododge