Capitol Christian Academy — formerly Princeton Day Academy — is launching a football program that will begin competing this fall.
How is it going so far?
“It's tough,” Athletic Director Tom Johnson said. “... You've got equipment. You've got to go out and try to recruit kids to come to your school, for one. It's really a hurdle. The first year, we're going to have bumps and bruises.”
“It wasn't difficult at all,” founder and headmaster Van Whitfield said. “Anytime time you start a program anywhere — I don't care how big the school is or how small the school may be — there's going to be challenges, but the challenges were no more than they would have been elsewhere. But it's not been difficult at all.”
It's no wonder Johnson and Whitfield see opposite sides of the same coin, considering they're venturing into uncharted territory.
While competing as Princeton Day, the school drew national attention for its boys' basketball program. But coinciding with the school's name change and move to Landover onto the campus of Jericho Christian Academy, Capitol Christian adding football is a big step.
Tasked with coaching the inaugural team is Terry White, who cited assistant coaching experience at St. Vincent Pallotti High School, DeMatha Catholic High School and High Point High School among his qualifications.
White also coaches the Howard County Stars in the Grass Roots Youth Football League.
“My whole thing in life is meant to not only develop programs that are geared toward developing youth, but football seems to become the overlying draw,” White said.
“Our goal is not necessarily to build a powerhouse. If that happens, thank God. Our main goal, our main goal is to develop the student-athlete. ... If we develop polished superstar football players, NFL greats, great. That's awesome, if we build a DeMatha, a Friendship Collegiate. It is not my goal right now. My main goal is to develop as many youngsters as we possibly can.”
Said Whitfield: “It's the same as with our basketball program. Our, really, only goal in this is to get everyone to college and preferably on scholarship.”
Capitol Christian has a nine-game schedule, though it hopes to add a game the week of Sept. 6 after planned-opponent McKinley Tech opted to play Charles H. Flowers High School instead. Two home games are scheduled for Fairland Park in Laurel.
As of Monday, Capitol Christian was not listed among the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's approved non-member schools. That could jeopardize games with public Friendly High School and McDonough High School.
Friendly coach Peter Quaweay said the school's athletic director, Lawrence Brown, scheduled the Sept. 13 game. Quaweay said he was uncertain how Capitol Christian's status would affect his team's playoff points.
“That's a huge concern,” Quaweay said.
Brown did not return a message seeking comment.
Whitfield said he applied for approval, but was uncertain whether the MPSSAA had received it. Princeton Day was approved last year.
“I don't foresee it being a problem,” Whitfield said.
MPSSAA executive director Ned Sparks did not return a message seeking comment.
For now, Capitol Christian has other issues. White and Johnson said the team plans to fundraise to cover the costs of competing.
“When it comes to the small private schools and everyone is clear at the outset on expectations, expenses, it's really not that difficult,” Whitfield said.
White estimated, of the team's approximately 34 players, 29 enrolled this year in part because the school now offered a football team.
However, White said Capitol Christian — with an enrollment he placed at about 70 — did not add football explicitly to add students.
“We saw a significant increase in enrollment well before we started any conversations about football,” Whitfield said. “We were very comfortable with enrollment.”
So why add football?
“There was a need,” Whitfield said. “I think our school has always been responsive to the needs of our scholars, and over the years, we've had so many people approach us about football. We've had young men who've come to the school who were interested in football, who actually went and played at other schools.”
Now, it's just a matter of working out the kinks.
“Football is different,” Johnson said. “I guess it's more special. You've got to have a certain amount of insurance. You've got to have fields. You've got to have practice fields. It's a lot to it. It isn't like wearing shorts and a t-shirt and going in the gymnasium. You know what I mean? So, it's tough, but we're going to get it done.”