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Hernando Christian takes a big step, joins FHSAA

Hernando Christian Academy's acceptance into the Florida High School Activities Association should give the private school's athletes the state-wide "recognition" school governors are seeking, but it is unlikely to have the same effect at home.

HCA will get to play in the same organization as the larger public schools in Hernando County. But with an enrollment of approximately 100, Hernando Christian seldom will compete against them.

That's not the present concern, said athletic director Jason Kahler.

"We desired for a little more recognition as far as being involved in an organization people are more interested in," Kahler said.

A former member of the Florida Christian Conference, HCA applied for and was granted full membership in early July in a speedy process that began April 26. After being verified as an officially recognized school by the Florida Department of Education and submitting an official request for admission, Hernando Christian was approved by Dr. Dan Boyd, the FHSAA's associate commissioner for administration.

"We think it's advantageous for people attending Florida high schools to be able to participate in a wide range," Boyd said. "We don't want to make it too difficult on them to join."

HCA fields teams in boys golf, soccer and basketball; girls soccer, volleyball and basketball; baseball and softball. Kahler said there is strong interest on campus in creating a cross country squad.

Hernando Christian could not get the recognition it sought without joining the 700-plus full or affiliated FHSAA members. Schools are prohibited from playing any program not in the association.

HCA will not be eligible for the state playoff series this coming school year, however.

"We had a situation where a school committed to field teams, was put in a district and made commitments to scheduling, which is not just a time commitment but a financial commitment with home and away games, then they didn't field teams," Boyd said. "You have a hardship on the other schools when that happens."

Hernando Christian will compete in the "A' classification, reserved for schools with the smallest enrollment, meaning it rarely will face county public schools Central, Hernando or Springstead.

That will lead to a lot of travel to play similarly-sized schools such as Seven Rivers Christian and Mount Dora Bible. That's nothing new for HCA, which traveled to Seffner, Tampa, Ocala, Lakeland and other locales to compete in the FCC.

Kahler said it is just as well his school does not face area public schools. County director of planning and district accountability Heather Martin projects Central to have 1,972 students this year, Hernando 1,370 and Springstead 2,009, which would put Hernando Christian at a massive competitive disadvantage.

"We'd be hard-pressed to compete against Central or Hernando," Kahler said. "We'd get just obliterated. We might do some scrimmaging, but as far as playing regular games I'm a little hesitant. I don't want the score to be 15-0 in a soccer game."

Staff writer Brant James can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1407, or brantsptimes.com.

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