SEFFNER — Move over, Armwood.
The Hawks' monopoly of fall Friday nights in Seffner will end when Seffner Christian Academy begins playing football this fall. The decision to add football is long overdue and will bolster the school's sports program, athletic director Andy Holmes said.
"For us, it was a matter of time that it would happen," he said. "This has been something that's been discussed for quite some time now."
But the decision to start a football team was actually influenced by the other futbol. Seffner Christian was one of a handful of schools that still competed in fall soccer as opposed to the more prevalent winter schedule. The Florida High School Athletics Association decided to do away with fall soccer next year, opening the door for the Crusaders to fill that void with football.
"The circumstances dictated we finally make the move," Holmes said. "The timing was right, and we couldn't be more pleased about getting started."
Seffner Christian's administration wasted little time appointing a head coach, hiring 35-year veteran Steve Lewis.
"I made a list some time back of things I wanted to do in my life, and one of them was to start a football program from scratch," Lewis said. "It's a challenge I'm looking forward to."
Lewis began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Richmond. He started coaching at the high school level in 1975 in Virginia before continuing on in Florida in 1992 at Temple Heights Christian. Since 2006, Lewis has served as a defensive coordinator at Cambridge Christian School in Tampa.
"I've been involved with football for a very long time," Lewis said. "And in that time I've had the pleasure of working with and learning from some tremendous football men."
Of course, getting a program off the ground is a daunting task. Helmets, shoulders pads and bleachers are all needed, but nothing will happen without funding. Holmes and Lewis said they are working on some private sponsorships and have a goal of $150,000 in startup funds. Although Homes said there is a possibility that the program would have to wait a year if that goal isn't met in time, he said he is "pretty confident" the Crusaders will kickoff this fall.
Holmes said the Crusaders would likely play an independent schedule, with most home games being held at either another local high school or the Strawberry Festival grounds in Plant City. Although Seffner Christian has a baseball, softball and soccer field on campus, there isn't enough room currently for a football stadium.
"We will try to have one afternoon home game on campus," Holmes said. "We'll have a pep rally and everything so the kids can see how things will be once the ball gets rolling."
Lewis said the first tangible step — aside from funding — is getting storage and locker room space. Not only will it provide housing for equipment and an area to dress, the building will also serve as a symbolic beginning to the program.
"We'll be able to show the kids and say, 'Look, over there is the building we'll be using,' " Lewis said. "It'll be something they can actually see as opposed to just an idea."
As for a future meeting on the gridiron with mighty two-time state champion Armwood? That likely won't happen any time soon, but the Hawks have already contributed to the Crusaders' budding program. Armwood donated their old lights and poles last August when the Hawks upgraded their football field.