September 11, 2009 9:11:00 AM
After soaring to victory the first three games of the season, the Victory Christian Eagles anticipate their first challenge of the season tonight (7) when they travel to Gardendale, Ala., to play Tabernacle Christian
Victory Christian coach Chris Hamm expects Tabernacle Christian to be the Eagles'' first test of the season after beating Flint Hill Christian (57-16), Central Christian Academy (62-6), and New Life Christian (69-16).
"I expect it to be a tough game," Hamm said. "That''s always a tough place to play. I know they beat Tuscaloosa Christian the first week of the season, and Tuscaloosa has a pretty good team this year.
"We need a tough game. We''re going to see what we''re made of this week. We''ve won some games already, but we''ve played young and inexperienced teams, so we look forward to the challenge."
The teams have played every year since 2001 and the series is tied 5-5. Victory Christian trails 3-1 in games played at Tabernacle Christian, winning 44-6 in 2003, while losing 38-34 in 2005 and 56-14 and 58-18 in 2007.
The game will be a rematch of last year''s Christian Football Association championship game, which Victory Christian won 70-58 at Tuscaloosa, Ala., to cap a 12-0 season.
Victory Christian also beat Tabernacle Christian 50-42 in the regular season last year.
Hamm isn''t sure what kind of impact last year''s championship game will have on tonight''s game.
"It''s a different group of kids," Hamm said. "I know we graduated 10 seniors last year and they graduated a good bit of their team from last year, so it''s not the same two teams. We''ve had a little bit of a rivalry in football develop over the years and we''re always looking forward to playing them, and I know they feel the same way."
The field at Tabernacle Christian is smaller than a standard field, and Hamm said that could be a factor. The field is 80 yards long and 40 yards wide as opposed to a regular field that is 100 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide.
"That can limit the scoring because there''s not as much space on the corners," Hamm said. "If you have a good kicker who can kick it into the end zone, touchbacks start from the 15 as opposed to the 20. Of course on an 80-yard field you don''t have to go as far, but I guess it''s a psychological thing of starting at the 15 every time."
Victory Christian is averaging 62.7 points per game this season after averaging 60.9 points en route to CFA title last year.
"We knew we were going to have a young offensive line," Hamm said. "We graduated both of our guards off last year''s team. Our center (Hunter Johnson) returned, but we were going to be a little young and inexperienced up front. We also knew we were going to have our playmakers coming back for the most part with the exception of Ke''unte (Hill), who graduated. We''ve gone to a little more of a spread-wide offense, throwing the ball around, and trying to get the ball in the hands of boys that can make plays."
Victory Christian''s offense features senior quarterback Parker Eaves, senior running back Daylan Hairston, junior running back Landon Ellis, and junior split ends C.J. Bell and Tyler Jones.
The defense and special teams also have contributed to the Eagles'' high-scoring start.
Against New Life, Ellis returned two interceptions for touchdowns and Hairston returned a fumble for a touchdown.
Paul Blair recorded a safety and Ellis returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns against Central Christian.
"When you see the score at the end of the game, it''s been a total team effort with defense and offense," Hamm said.
Victory Christian cruised past New Life despite playing without center and defensive end Hunter Johnson and defensive end Marcus Sims, who were sick.
Hamm expects Johnson to play against Tabernacle Christian, but isn''t sure about Sims.
Hamm said sophomore Nick Hairston played well for Johnson at defensive end.