Did you know the NFL’s Tim Tebow was homeschooled?
It would be a stretch to say one of the members of the Battle Creek Homeschool Apocalypse football team is going to be the next Tim Tebow, considering many of them hadn’t even played football before joining the team. But the fact they will now get a chance is reason enough to establish a team, according to organizers.
“We are hoping to give kids, who never had the opportunity, the chance to play a team sport that America loves,” said Apocalypse assistant coach Randy Rial. “This also makes it more palpable for people, who are considering homeschooling, because you see a chance to add football to the overall educational package. The kids love it, love coming to practice. The kids often say, ‘This is the best thing we’ve been able to do.'”
The Battle Creek Apocalypse is in its second year playing football and was created to give high school-aged homeschool students a place to play football, while also competing in a Christian environment. The team started with mostly homeschool students last year, but has expanded this year to include athletes who compete at small Christian schools that don’t have football.
The idea came about some four years ago by some parents looking for an environment to allow their kids to play football. Many of the players never played organized football before. The Apocalypse didn’t win a game last year in its first season, but has tied one game and won another this year, playing in the Christian Athletic League.
“The first practice we had four kids, second practice four kids, then we had six and eventually we had a team,” said Apocalypse head coach Darin Scriber. “We had some kids that never played football before. One of our boys’ dad had never seen a football game. We lost all of our games the first year, but it was still the most fulfilling coaching season I have ever had. The kids were great, the parents were great.
“Having this team is a big solution for our homeschool kids. We are not out here to win football games first and foremost. The main reason we are here is that football is vehicle to bring people together and get our message out about homeschooling and Christian sports.”
But where did the nickname come from?
“Yeah, the name. We get a lot of comments about the name. A lot of the other teams say, ‘You guys have a cool name.’ We had the kids come up with the name, but we wanted it to be a biblical name. One came up with Apocalypse and we talked to them about the four horsemen and the football background with that,” Rial said, referring to the legendary college football group – ‘four horsemen of Notre Dame. “And we said, that’s it.”
Practicing three days a week on the chewed-up, mostly dirt playground at Minges Brook Elementary School in Lakeview, the Apocalypse work out early evenings to get ready for Friday or Saturday games against other Christian/Homeschool teams in this part of the state. The Apocalypse earned their first win ever against Fort Wayne (Ind.) Homeschool, 22-6, last weekend on what is their home field at Bellevue High School. That followed a 0-0 tie with Howe (Ind.) School the weekend before. Battle Creek has also played teams from Grand Rapids and Lansing.
The Apocalypse will enjoy their biggest game of the young franchise this Friday when they play at Albion High School for Homecoming. After Albion dropped football in late summer, three Albion players joined the Apocalypse to play this season. Through a joint effort with the Battle Creek homeschool team and the Albion High School athletic department, the Apocalypse will be the featured act for a salvaged Homecoming game.
Knowing what it feels like to have football taken away from them, the Albion players appreciate the effort the homeschool players are putting forth to get on the field.
“This is great for kids who don’t go to school, or go to school that doesn’t have football, it gives them a chance to play,” said Shaquille Cage of Albion.
A chance they didn’t think they would have.
“Coming into high school I didn’t know if I was going to get to play football. I could play in eighth grade at other schools, but being homeschooled it didn’t look like I’d have a chance to play in high school,” said Sean Morgan, a sophomore. “So being on this team is really exciting. Getting this team started was a great opportunity.”
And maybe surprisingly, players have taken that chance and ran with it already. Two players that lined up for the Apocalypse last year are on college football rosters this season.
Former Apocalypse player Luke Hetke is on the roster at Olivet College and Victor Douglas is playing at Trine University – two Division III college football programs.
“Yeah, we have two kids that went on to play at college. So this is giving kids a chance to compete and play football and that’s our goal,” Scriber said. “We are not high school level yet. Our goal would be that in a few years maybe we can get closer to being at the high school level.”
And if they do, the players and the coaches figure they will get to that level together.
“Some of the kids we have, have never played before, but this gives them a chance to play and that’s the point. There’s definitely a learning curve, learning the plays, learning the game, but we are starting to roll,” said Josh Cotter, a junior. “It’s just fun playing football, no matter what.”