It’s about half past 3, and members of the Veritas Christian School football team have just begun to pull up to their sleepy practice field.
In a gravel lot behind the Community Bible Church near the outskirts of town, the Eagles pop their trunks or back up their trucks, pull out their pads and equipment and start getting suited up for practice — right there in the parking lot.
This is how the Eagles (7-0) — who are aiming for a perfect 8-0 regular season when they play host to Wichita Sunrise Christian Academy at 7 tonight at the Eagle’s Nest — start practice every day.
“It feels really unique,” senior running back/defensive back Nate Scott said of practicing in the remote, off-campus field. “We just know we’re the only team around here that does this.
“We understand that we’re different from everybody else, and we like it.”
There is certainly something special about Veritas this season.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” senior center/linebacker Kelvin Rask said. “I’m personally trying not to think too much about the record, but also you just have to enjoy it. This is what you dream of for a senior year.”
As a follow-up to last year’s 8-2 mark — the Eagles’ best record in the program’s seven-year history — coach Doug Bennett had his eye on more.
“We gained a lot of weight, strength and speed to help replace a couple of guys we lost, and we just had a lot of talent coming back,” Bennett said. “I knew our competition was losing a couple key guys, too, so I figured it was maybe a chance to do some great things this season.”
The Eagles haven’t been edging opponents, either; they’ve steamrolled the opposition, scoring at the blistering rate of 62 points per game.
“I didn’t expect to implement the mercy rule nearly every time we’ve stepped on the field,” Bennett said. “But our guys have lived up to every expectation that I’ve had and exceeded it most times.”
Among the blowouts: a 72-22 thrashing of Elwood High and last week’s 70-36 victory over St. Mary’s Academy, where the Eagles rushed for 399 yards.
On offense, seniors Nate and Ethan Scott have carried the ball effectively and proved adept pass catchers for junior quarterback, and coach’s son, Nick Bennett.
Nate Scott has carried 51 times for 753 yards, averaging nearly 15 yards per carry, with 19 touchdowns, while his brother, Ethan, has rushed for 419 on 34 carries (12.3 average) with eight TDs.
Nate and Ethan also have eight and six receiving touchdowns, respectively, from the hand of Bennett, who has amassed 874 yards passing, 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions on the season.
Just because they get most of the glory doesn’t mean they deserve all the credit, says coach Bennett.
“You have to come back to the offensive line,” he said, praising the blocking of Rask, senior guard Jerrid Cadue and sophomore guard Bryce Boland.
The defense has been just as good, generating 20 turnovers so far this season, and Cadue (71 tackles), senior Ethan Kay (eight sacks), Boland, junior Preston Randall and the Scott brothers (five total interceptions) are only a few of the many standouts.
The level of talent on both sides of the ball helps makes it easy for coach Bennett to dub this Eagles team the “best overall” in the program’s history.
Of course, the increased win totals are beginning to bring the program the attention it needs — especially in terms of enticing student-athletes to come out for the team, be it from inside the school or “homeschoolers” like Rask.
The Eagles, who play 8-on-8, have 22 members this season, a seemingly low figure until considering they made do with only 13-15 players in recent years.
“We’re able to have full scrimmages in practice, where in the past you kind of have to use an extra cone or two or coach or two,” Doug Bennett chuckled.
“We’ve always had a good, quality program,” he added. “This year has just been a lot of fun.”
Now the regular season culminates in the showdown against the Buffaloes, an opponent that has repeatedly bettered the Eagles in recent years, including a victory last year that Nate Scott estimated was by about 40 points.
“It’s revenge,” Scott said. “We want this game.”
Then there’s that whole undefeated thing, not to mention the winner of tonight’s game gets home-field advantage in next week’s playoffs.
“There’s a lot that’s riding on this,” coach Bennett said. “Our goal as a team has been to win state.”