Trinity Christian School (TCS) is a local private Christian school that is a ministry of Trinity Baptist Texarkana. Just three years ago, TCS made the decision to create a school football team. Prior to this, TCS had already established other sports teams such as baseball, basketball, cross country, and golf teams. However, their football program was started completely from scratch. Three years later on September 3rd, 2021, the TCS Warriors notched their first ever football victory in school history. While it has only been three years since its initiation, the TCS Warriors football program has come a much longer way than such a timeframe would indicate.
The Emergence of TCS Football
When the TCS football program was launched, the team had very few players. With the few players they had, the Warriors launched their first season. As expected for a first-year football program, the team went without a win for the whole season. For their second season, the Warriors merged with another Christian school in the area in order to ensure that both teams had enough athletes on their roster to play. Building chemistry among a team is a feat in and of itself, but trying to merge two different teams from two different schools into one football program definitely poses challenges of its own. This, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, acted as a major obstacle for the upcoming season in which the Warriors went winless yet again.
After two seasons with no recorded wins on their record, TCS decided that it was time to take the program to the next level. The first step in doing so was to hire new athletic director/head coach Brantley Price whose motivational approach and demand for excellence stuck out from other applicants.
Price graduated from Mount Vernon High School in Mount Vernon, TX, where he was a four-year starter in football, baseball, basketball, and track. After graduating high school, Price went on to pursue a degree in Sports Management.
“Graduating with my bachelor’s degree I knew coaching was where I wanted to be, [but] at the time God had some different plans for my life,” Price said. “I went into management and worked with coaching and private lessons on the side. My wife and I went through a tough time in December of last year, [so] we decided to pack up and move to Texarkana as we felt the Lord calling us here. With my management experience as well as my knowledge of sports I knew [the available position] was something I needed to pursue.”
Building a Culture
Based on the first two years of TCS football, one might assume that there were no players to choose from within the school hallways. After all, the team did struggle finding enough players to make a roster. However, quite the opposite is true.
“Right from the get-go I noticed the amount of athletes we had roaming through the halls that I hadn't seen on the film that I watched,” Price said. “I started right away with recruiting from within our own hallways—trying to build trust and relationships with the kids we have. This sport revolves around a certain culture and attitude that I just felt was missing. My job was to start building that little by little. We definitely aren't there yet, but it's slowly taking shape.”
Starting in the spring, Price went to work on building a team with a culture that a football team is supposed to have. But, building a team culture and a winning tradition where there was none previously is not something that just happens overnight.
“We talk a lot about commitment, effort, and what it means to be a team. We understand that events plus our response equals the outcome,” Price said. “This sport is tough and some days are hard, but that's just life. When we are faced with adversity, what matters is how we respond to that and what we do to overcome it. We understand that we have to go out and win each day—focusing on our goals and where we want to be, not where we are currently at.”
Prepping for the First Game
As time went on, the first game of the season inched closer and closer. The time came for the TCS Warriors to focus less on summer conditioning and more on their first opponent of the season: Southwest Christian. Southwest Christian played the week before against Arkansas Christian Academy and came out on top with a score of 40-6. For the Warriors, this could have been intimidating considering their winless record and the fact that many of their new players have never played much football before. Despite this, coach Price and the team studied Southwest Christian, formed a game plan, and executed.
“We could tell right away that they were big and going to play physical,” Price said. “We knew that on defense we would have to do a great job of wrapping up and gang tackling. Offensively we knew they would play soft coverage on our receivers and often leave the slot receiver uncovered, hoping their linebacker was athletic enough to get outside and cover him. We felt we had decent speed and athleticism outside the hashes and needed to take advantage of the soft coverage.”
If one was to look at the film from the Warriors’ season last year, they wouldn’t be able to recognize this year’s squad. Southwest Christian came into the game expecting to see something resembling last year’s crew, and after TCS blew them away with a score of 66-26, they didn’t have a clue what hit them.
In their first ever football win, the TCS Warriors notched eight total offensive touchdowns with 287 passing yards, 77 rushing yards, and six successful two-point conversions. On defense the Warriors allowed 26 points and 224 passing yards, but forced two fumbles and a pick-six.
Senior Silas Nix accounted for over half of the total receiving yards. The six-foot 3-inch receiver was targeted 10 times for seven receptions, 156 receiving yards, and three touchdowns.
“We are a pass-first offense with some really good plays in the books. Our goal was to stay spread out and beat our man 1v1,” Nix said. “Being 6’3’’ helped a lot—I definitely had the height advantage on the cornerback. But one key factor was our endurance; all the running at practice paid off. Most importantly, behind a good wide receiver is a good quarterback, and Nate Wall executed well.”
The starting offensive skill players for the Warriors will also be their starting five for the basketball team this upcoming season, so it’s no wonder that their offensive playbook is heavy on passing: there is a lot of height and athleticism to work with. But in order to have a proficient passing attack, a team must have a quarterback that can do the job. Sophomore quarterback Nate Wall was that man for the Warriors.
After a bit of a rocky start, Wall ended up going 21/28 passing for 287 yards and six passing touchdowns while also gaining 46 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Additionally, on defense Wall secured an interception and ran it back for a touchdown.
“Going into the first game of the season I was definitely confident in my teammates. I know we had put in the work and prepared for this game,” Wall said. “I started out the game rough. It was the first game of the season and the nerves started to get to me, but I finally got into the groove of things by mid-1st quarter and everything kind of fell into place after that.”
The thing about football is that a team is a family. When one person is struggling, the family is there to support them and get them going again.
“Definitely having Silas Nix, Zach Graf, Halston Baca, and Marley Franklin made this game feel really easy. I knew I had big guys who could make big plays when I needed them to,” Wall said. “Our game plan coming into this game was to throw the ball a lot. [Southwest Christian] only really had one big guy, so the goal was to throw it up to our receivers and let them make a play."
Behind every efficient offense is a blocking unit that will battle it out in the trenches. The Warriors’ offensive line, along with junior running back Marley Franklin, allowed zero sacks which was a key factor in the success of this TCS offense.
“I think we entered with an underdog attitude and executed well,” Franklin said. “I see my main job not only as a scorer, but as a protector of the ball handler, whoever that may be. So when I saw an opportunity to get a hard hitting block I took it. Sometimes that’s what it takes to give your team that boost of energy, and it definitely did that.”
Despite a pick-six by Wall as well as a fumble recovery by both junior Brock McGuire and senior Eli Youngblood, Warriors middle linebacker and key defensive leader Thompson Kemp was not satisfied with the performance of his defense.
“I'd say our defense was alright but a little sloppy. We missed some easy tackles and failed to execute some of our coverage correctly,” Kemp said. “There were a few reasons for this, but mostly it came down to us just not executing properly. We're going to watch film and go over what all mistakes and breaks in coverage there were and learn from those mistakes so they won't happen again.”
Always hungry. Never content. Never settling for mediocrity, but continuously pursuing excellence. That’s where the Warriors are at as they look to build upon their success in the following weeks to come. Even with the jaw-dropping offensive numbers TCS put up against Southwest Christian, junior receiver Zach Graf still believes there is room to improve.
“I’d say that we played to what we know best: spread the field and give the ball to athletes,” Graf said. “That’s what I’d say went well for us on the offensive side of things. To continue those numbers I’d say we need to improve on just being able to continue to execute our plays and checks, but if we stick to what we do best we will continue to see those numbers every game.”
An Emotional Ending
For coach Price, this job is more than just a job; it’s a calling. To Price this win is more than just a win; it’s years of struggle, hard work, and obedience to the One who called him coming to fruition.
“For me personally it was a little emotional just because of what I've gone through to get where I am today. I'm so thankful to TCS and Dr. Greg Jones for giving me this opportunity,” Price said. “I’m so proud of these kids and coaches and all of the work they put in. Also, I’m thankful for my wife and her support; she's my rock and supportive of whatever I do. I truly feel that at this point I am living out my purpose and calling in life, and God put me through exactly what I needed to land me right where I am today.”
For TCS this win is extremely significant, but winning isn’t the most important thing. The focus is set on teaching the players how to win on the field and off the field in a Gospel-centered way.
“We have worked hard with these boys all summer long and they came out hungry to bring home the first win. We set the bar high and our boys responded,” said defensive coordinator Andy Coats. “We don't just want a win, we want a winning season that takes us far into the playoffs—we want to make it to the championship. As the defensive coordinator, I love the hard work and dedication these young men have. But as the Senior Pastor at Trinity Baptist, I love that we are encouraging and equipping these young men to not just be champions on the field, but champions off the field as well. We have great days ahead for our athletic program here at Trinity Christian School."
You could feel it that evening: the jubilant feeling of years of hard work finally paying off, all in one single moment. The feeling that history was being made at TCS. The Warriors know what it’s like to fall short, but they now know what it’s like to finally succeed after many failed attempts. They want to continue to create moments like these, and that means the continuation of practices and performances with the same mindset: a never-ending pursuit of excellence.
“It's great to come out and win the debut, but our bar and our standard is set a lot higher than just winning the first game of the season,” Price said. “We will continue to work day in and day out to build that culture and create a winning tradition here at TCS. It was a great Friday night, but the Friday nights don’t stop coming. We now have to look forward and focus on the next opponent.”
The TCS Warriors football program came out on top for the first time ever on that muggy September evening. That evening was filled with memories—many of which will never be forgotten. But before driving two hours back to Texarkana in a bus full of teenage boys, the team made one last noteworthy stop to celebrate before the night was over: Taco Bell.