On Friday nights in Stephenville a community of family, friends and volunteers work together…
“My wife ran chains a couple of games ago, we’ve got sisters behind the cameras, we’ve got brothers and sisters at the concession stand, we’ve got moms and dads taking gate,” said FAITH Knights coach Chance Yankie. “It’s the whole football family coming together to make it happen for these kids.”
Making it happen, so the most dominant high school football program in the state of Texas the last decade can have players put all they have on the line for teammates that are not their classmates.
“We are a small group of a bunch of home school kids and kids from around here,” said FAITH Knights linebacker Tristian Saxon. “We’re all brothers. We work together. If you come on this team, you’re going to be a brother and you’re going to be a Knight for life.”
The FAITH Knights home school six-man football program has had one of the most successful high school football runs in state history.
“This is our tenth year, and in the nine previous years, we’ve made the state playoff game eight years in a row,” said Chance Yankie. “Of those eight, we’ve won seven straight championships in a row, which I believe is a state record.”
Eight straight state championship game appearances, with a team made up of only nine players, forcing the Knights to play almost every down every Friday night.
“It’s kind of normal for us right now, because it’s all we know,” said junior running back Samuel Yankie. “We play both ways the whole game with no plays off. It’s kind of tough.”
Tough, and requiring a high-level of endurance, which Knights coach Chance Yankie, who also works as a local youth pastor and home builder, teaches using a familiar training routine he used in high school in the 1990s.
“Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys workouts,” said Chance Yankie. “One day you do sprints, the next day you do distance running, the next day sprints, the next day distance, then a walkthrough to let their legs rest and then game time. That’s the best shape I’ve ever been in, so I’m going to have these guys do the same thing. It’s tried and true, and conditioning has kept us healthy.”
Health is crucial for the Knights, as is recruiting, with the team accepting any students who are home schooled or who attend a private school that does not have its own football program, which often results in teenagers taking the field as Knights playing football for the very first time.
“You get who you get and you don’t throw a fit, as we like to say,” said Chance Yankie. “Whoever God brings our way, that’s who we try to develop, who we try to plug-in, who we try to evaluate and see what’s your skillset, what could you potentially be good at.”
An evaluation that has worked year after year, as this season’s Knights team, filled with multiple players playing football for the first time, is once again on track to make a state championship game appearance for a ninth straight year.
“When we ended the state title game last year, we didn’t even know if we’d have a team this year,” said Knights assistant coach Brandon Saxon. “God provided that and these kids that were here, they know tradition, and they carried it on.”
“The state championship teams have definitely motivated us,” said Samuel Yankie. “We definitely look to be like the teams in the past.”"