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Trinity football builds brick by brick

Posted: December 2, 2013 10:43 p.m.
Updated: December 2, 2013 10:43 p.m.

Trinity Classical Academy's Ryan Brooks (15) intercepts a Joshua Springs pass, which he eventually returned for a touchdown in the CIF-Southern Section Division II 8-man championship game at Valencia High on Saturday.

 

The Trinity Classical Academy Knights football team’s 2013 run to a CIF-Southern Section Division II 8-man Championship was both improbable and inevitable.

With all of the tradition surrounding Foothill League sports programs, it’s hard for newer schools to make a significant impact in the Santa Clarita Valley sports scene.

The Knights made an impact this year by going 10-2 and unseating four-time defending CIF champion Joshua Springs 47-0 on Saturday at Valencia High to win the school’s first-ever CIF title.

Four years ago, the upstart Trinity Classical Academy football program appeared highly unlikely to get to this point.

In 2009, then-head coach Ben Froemming and his Knights went 0-9 at the junior varsity level in the team’s first-ever season of competition.

The road blocks to improvement were obvious:

Lacking structure, it would be hard to develop a winning culture when there was no blueprint for success.

Having little reputation, high caliber athletes were unlikely to consider Trinity over proven football factories like Hart, Canyon and Valencia.

Losers of nine straight games, the players that Trinity did have would likely reconsider their football commitments heading into the following season.

“As far as experience went, only I and Shane Larsen had ever played Pop Warner or any other level of football,” said former Trinity football star receiver James Brooks on the 2009 season. “It was a pretty crazy year. I think a lot of guys stuck around more because they knew if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be enough players to field a team.”

Every new athletic program faces its share of challenges.

Had Trinity dealt with its obstacles any differently, Santa Clarita sports fans may have remembered the Knights football team as a crash-and-burn project.

Instead, a unique defensive philosophy, a new head coach, a loaded incoming class, and a commitment to faith and academics kept the Trinity program optimistic about its future.

Following this season’s accomplishments, it’s safe to say that optimism yielded considerable returns.

“I think that we were blessed early on to have a group of kids who were talented enough to play at Foothill League programs stay at Trinity because of the education,” said Knights head basketball coach John Brooks, who led a 19-7 Trinity team to the CIF Division VI championship game during the 2012-13 season. “We take sports seriously but put faith and schooling first — people don’t come to Trinity for athletic recognition, they come here to learn.”

On the field, Trinity players have learned Froemming’s unconventional 2-4 defense, which implements the use of only two down-lineman and four linebackers.

After a 2010 campaign in which the Knights went 4-5-1 in their first varsity season, Froemming stepped down from the head coaching position to focus on defense and help the Trinity coaching staff with the development of the unusual scheme.

As Trinity players and coaches gained more experience — and upon the arrival of talents such as Dakota Prochnow, Spencer Klehn and Patch Kulp — the Knights began to establish their identity and win games.

“What you have to recognize about 8-man football is that it’s faster paced than regular 11-man is. When I took over I saw that teams were scoring 50, 60 points all the time,” said Trinity head coach Mike Buchanan, who has gone 30-6 since stepping in for Froemming in 2011. “One thing that was absent, really from 8-man football in general, was solid defense. I knew if we came in and made ourselves a defensive team it would give us an advantage.”

So far Buchanan’s theory has proven true.

Over the past three seasons, the Knights have surrendered an average of just 14.5 points per game.

In 2013, the Knights were almost abnormally staunch.

The “wolf pack defense,” as Trinity players and fans call it, allowed just 12 points per contest, including Saturday’s shutout of a Lightning team that entered the CIF title game averaging 55 points per game.

Factor in that the Knights scored 564 points on offense, and it’s no surprise that the 2013 season ended with a CIF title.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us to replace that (production),” said Knights junior receiver Ryan Brooks, who is an all-league talent in both football and basketball. “(Trinity quarterback) Colton Oshiro and I are just going to have to step up.”

Trinity has shown that it can build, now it must prove that it can rebuild.

The Joshua Springs team that the Knights have developed a rivalry, and with a plethora of returning starters the Lightning look to compete for a title again.

It’s that type of consistency that the Knights must use as a measuring stick for success.

Such a task is hard given that nine players from this year’s Trinity team will graduate next spring.

According to Buchanan though, as long as Trinity maintains its excellent academic reputation, the right players for his system will find their way into the program.

“We’ve never recruited any athletes here,” said Buchanan. “We’ve built what we have by just honoring the Lord on the field and in the classroom. What the teachers do for the kids here is unique, and at the end of the day this entire experience is about turning boys into men.”

Trinity Classical Academy’s athletic program underwent growing pains, no doubt.

And how strong it has grown.

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