By Thomas Grant Jr.
After two full seasons, Dean Howell remains as happy as ever as Northside Christian Academy’s head football coach.
For openers, he has the program on an upswing. A year after resuming 11-man football play after a season of junior varsity, the Crusaders finished second in the region and made the SCISA Class 2A playoffs.
There’s also a middle school and junior varsity team for the first time at Northside Christian. Howell has truly put his foundation in place for success in the future.
“This is been like I feel like I’ve had to kind of reinvent myself as a coach and kind of go back to my days of coaching…middle school football and ninth-grade football again. Started with a bunch of really, really young kids, but they’re older now and they’re more mature and they’ve been in our program for 2-3 years, most of them. It’s fun in the fact that now everybody kind of knows what to do and what to expect and all that kind of stuff.
“So I guess fun, easier, however, you want to phrase it. We’re doing things the way I’ve always wanted to do it and we’re doing things in a much smaller setting and, hopefully, the kids are having fun. Hopefully, we’ll make some noise this year.”
Players like Gavin Ford are entering the season with lofty expectations.
“I feel like we’re super confident,” he said. “I feel like we have a good chance of winning it all this year. We’ve just got to stay focused and disciplined.”
Running back Sam Burks is the team’s returning leading rusher and top offensive threat. His speed and athletic prowess make it difficult to challenge Burks at practice, according to Howell, but his playmaking ability and maturity is invaluable to the team.
“I think I have a good mentality and I keep people up,” Burks said. “When they’re tired and they’re down, I pick them up and I’m just a good teammate.”
Sophomore J.R. Kinard is another versatile player who can play multiple positions. Lining him up with Burks provides Northside Christian with its best backfield combination since its SCISA 8-man runner-up season.
The Crusaders also return Jake Jeffrey, Trevor Hoffman and John Lizewski at wide receiver and bring in a transfer from Chapin in Preston Mills.
Quarterback Jefferson McCallum has continued to show growth at the position. He attended every summer workout, often making the trip from the coast the same day and is prepared to lead the team.
Northside Christian will play its first two games on the road. The key is staying healthy as the Crusaders’ depth is only “razor thin” in Howell’s words.
Northside Christian Academy
2023 Football Schedule
August 18 – at First Baptist – 7:30 pm
August 25 – at Greenwood Christian – 7:30 pm
September 1 – Orangeburg Prep – 7 pm
September 8 – Camden Military – 7 pm
September 15 – at Hickory Grove Christian – 7:30 pm
September 22 – Williamsburg Academy – 7 pm
September 29 – Bye
October 6 – Georgia School for Innovation and Classics – 7 pm
October 13 – Bethesda Academy – 7 pm
October 20 – Palmetto Christian Academy – 7 pm
OCT 27 – at Spartanburg Christian Academy – 7:30 pm