Half of the 22 players are students at Veritas Christian School, 256 N. Mich. Many have never played organized football.
The other half are home-schooled, and so have never had the opportunity to play on a football team.
The Veritas Eagles play eight-man football -- a rarity around here. And this is the team's first season.
The players, who are in grades seven through nine, range in age from 12 to 15. So the Eagles come in a variety of sizes.
And this team has a sportsmanship ethic that's far removed from the "win at all costs" philosophy in athletics today.
Among the purposes and goals listed on the team's Web site -- www.baldwincity.net/veritas/ -- are "have fun" and "glorify God, not ourselves."
Rosco Brixey explains what's different about Veritas football.
"It's really fun because it's Christian. The people are a lot nicer and have better attitudes," said Rosco, a 12-year-old who is home-schooled and plays defensive back and tight end for the Eagles. "You hit 'em (other players) and you pick 'em back up again."
Get in the game
Small schools like Veritas often start eight-man football programs because they lack enough students to field 11-man teams.
Spencer Reeves, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Veritas, plays outside linebacker, tackle and guard for the Eagles. That's common -- just about everybody on an eight-man football team gets to play on both sides of the ball.
Spencer is one Eagle who has played organized, 11-man football before.
"I played for South (Junior High School) last year on the seventh-grade team. We went 7-0 and won the Toy Bowl," he said.
He likes the way the Eagles do things.
"Here the coaches try to get you in (the game) more," he said. "You play a lot of positions. It's more encouraging here -- they're more like, 'Good job!' If you're not very good at football, everybody tries to help you."
The Eagles have five games scheduled in their inaugural season. The team has to look outside Lawrence to find other eight-man football programs to serve as opponents.
The schedule this year features two games against St. Joseph (Mo.) Christian School, a game versus the junior varsity squad of the Kansas School for the Deaf in Olathe, a game against St. Mary's Academy and College, a game against Olathe Christian School's ninth-grade team and a full-contact scrimmage between Eagles squads.
The team's last home game of the season is against St. Joseph at 4:30 p.m. today at Community Bible Church, 906 N. 1464 Road.
So far, Veritas is 0-3.
"But it's been very competitive, and no one's blown us away," said head coach Doug Bennett. "We've come very close to pulling out some wins."
No trash talk
Taylor McKinney, who is 12 and home-schooled, plays tailback, tight end and defensive end for the Eagles.
His coaches try to teach team members to play the game a certain way.
"They tell us to be nice and help someone up if we tackle them -- and not to talk trash," Taylor said.
The best part of being on the team, he said, is "being able to get in (the game) and actually play."
Branden Souders of Wellsville is 13 and is home-schooled. He plays center and fullback. He's excited about playing for the Eagles.
"It's great. You get to smack people around, hang out with the guys and have fun," he said. "I'm actually learning a whole lot about football that I didn't know. I know most of our plays."
David Dreyfus is 14 and a ninth-grader at Veritas. This is his second year at the school.
David, who plays right guard, hopes that his time with the Eagles will prepare him to play football in public school in a year or two.
"It's good discipline, and it keeps me in shape," he says. "I like the interaction with my teammates and the challenge it presents physically and mentally."
-- Staff writer Jim Baker can be reached at 832-7173.