Grace Academy Playing For an 8-Man Football National Title
Chattanooga-(WDEF-TV) Grace Baptist Academy is headed to Florida to play for a national title. The Eagles had a big hit to enrollment after the 2020 tornado destroyed the school forcing them to drop down to 8-man football. However, they’ve dominated ever since.
Said running back Tyler Parrott: “8-man’s just been a blessing.”
Grace’s world turned upside down Easter night of 2020. Classrooms, locker rooms, stadiums destroyed by an EF-3 tornado. However, the spirit to play football survived.
Said head coach Bob Ateca: “Our kids are resilient. These young men have shown it doesn’t matter what happened to you. Just keep your eye on the prize, and that’s what they did.”
Grace adapted to 8-man football, racking up wins week after week, proving the strength of this team.
Said Ateca: “Coaching in 11-man for 30 years, I’d never experienced it. But it’s the same football. It’s the same physicality. It’s the same blocking and tackling as anything else. It’s just you got to schematically do stuff a little bit different.”
Said receiver Mason Long: “It’s pretty much the same thing. We just had to get creative on our plays. I mean, we use the same ones, but we added more like trick plays. It’s pretty much been the same.”
Said Parrott: “It doesn’t take 40 or 50 plus guys on a roster to win games like some other teams. It’s not just about the numbers you have. It’s about the guys and the chemistry.”
Grace turned 18 players into an undefeated season, state championship and, once again, unified community.
Said Long: “Just to finally be glad and happy, it felt like we were a family again. Everybody was connected.”
Said receiver Cole Mason: “I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it inside and outside the school. I feel like it kind of brought everybody together, especially just the good season that we had and what all we were able to accomplish, I feel like it’s just helped everyone get through this.”
Said Ateca: “At one point we didn’t even know if we were going to be able to play football. And now to turn around and have an undefeated 11-0 season with a state championship under us now is just, yeah, you couldn’t even describe it.”
Grace quarterback Cooper Knecht will *not* play in this weekend’s national championship games. Knecht who has over 15-hundred yards for the Eagles suffered a concussion at the end of last week’s state championship. Grace plays Alabama’s Evangel Christian Saturday for a spot in the national title game.