"Hit 'em hard, help 'em up!" That is the team motto for the Veritas Eagles Junior High football team.
At their Sept. 14 practice the Eagles' junior high squad practiced with the high school team in preparation for the high school's game the following day. The teams worked on their kickoff and punt coverage before splitting up into individual groups.
Eighth-grader Drake Brungardt said what he liked most about playing football was tackling people with his wings, or as they are more commonly called, shoulder pads. Though Brungardt enjoyed tackling, there was one aspect of playing football he did not like.
"I don't like running. But it's just part of it," Brungardt said.
Though Brungardt prefers not to run, teammate Boomer Mays really enjoyed it.
Mays plays running back and linebacker for the Eagles squad and scored three touchdowns in Veritas' season opener. And though he loved running with the football tucked inside his arm, Mays enjoys playing defense the most.
Third-year coach Robbie Giffen has noticed Mays' prowess on the defensive side of the ball.
"He's a good hard-nosed football player. He has a nose for the football," Giffen said. "And he hits as hard as any junior high football player that I've seen in a while."
Mays said he has been playing football since he was in second grade. He uses the practice time to help accomplish some of his personal goals.
"I want to work hard and keep getting better," Mays said. "And improve your skills."
Mays spent much of the practice playing running back. But Mays is versatile enough he can also be used as a fullback or a receiver.
But Mays doesn't practice football as much as one might think. Veritas only practices on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Mays said even though it hasn't practiced all that much, he still feels good about the team overall.
While many teams emphasize winning as the only team goal, Veritas does not.
"We want the kids to have fun and learn something about football, learn something about becoming a man," Giffen said. "Football can help them with mental toughness and dealing with adversity and failure."
Last season Veritas had to endure some adversity when they finished the season with a 2-5 record. But Giffen thought those lessons learned on the field could help them this season.
The Christian school plays 8-man football. And with three less players on each team, the Eagles must look out for each other.
"They're good kids. They're easy to coach, eager to learn," Giffen said.
Learning the game football and the game of life is something the Veritas Eagles Junior High takes very seriously. And whether it is sometime soon or years down the road, the importance of teaching mental toughness and discipline is something Giffen will continue to strive for.
"Obviously, being a Christian school our goal first is to glorify God through playing a sport," Giffen said. "And then the goal is to win."