Players make triumphant return as King’s Way Christian restarts its football program
The King’s Way Christian Knights are back on the football field with 25 players on the roster, ready for a varsity season with a seven-game independent schedule.
That’s 25 more players than last season and seven more games.
Yes, the Knights are back. Earlier than expected, too.
When King’s Way Christian officials announced in the summer of 2020 that they were shutting down the football program for up to three years, many of the athletes went to their home boundary schools to play football.
Bradley Araujo, now a senior, went to Camas. Aidan Sweeney, now a junior, went to Prairie. Jamison Duke, now a junior, went to Evergreen.
At the time, they figured they would remain with their neighborhood teams. Because, at the time, there were no plans for King’s Way Christian football to return so soon.
Changes were made. School officials announced football was coming back, and so, too, did those three athletes.
Araujo is the only senior on the squad.
“It’s pretty fun. I get to watch these guys one more year,” Araujo said. “I get to have one more dance here on this field, my home field.
“I had to come back and finish my senior year here,” he added. “It was important to me to try to build this program. I started as a freshman here.”
For Sweeney, a tight end and linebacker, returning was a no-brainer.
“I’ve been here since kindergarten. This is my home school. My friends go here,” Sweeney said. “I did make friends at Prairie. I love the guys over there. But this is the school I’ve been at since I was 6.”
Sweeney and 24 more high school players are on the team. Earlier this week, there were at least 18 middle school students practicing on the other side of the field.
“It’s really important for me and other guys to set the foundation for the program,” Sweeney said. “We’re restarting everything.”
He added that he knows there are other athletes in the high school who could still come out for football. Maybe that will happen this year. Or maybe next year and beyond.
“It’s important to get as many guys out here as possible and set an example for what we want in the future,” Sweeney said.
Nick Mancillas is in his first year as head coach of the program.
“The season, the set-up of it, even with the independent schedule, I really feel it is a blessing, kind of heaven sent with God’s hand on it,” Mancillas said.
Remember, this program wasn’t supposed to take a year off; it was supposed to take years off at the high school level.
So having 25 players … that is an accomplishment for this restart, the coach said.
Mancillas noted that it is considered a varsity team, with the Knights playing three Class 1A opponents and four Class 2B opponents.
The Trico League had already filled up its non-league and league schedule for this season, prior to knowing that King’s Way Christian was coming back to football. There is a way for the Knights to make the Class 1A postseason, but that would be a tough task.
For now, it is about fielding a team, improving, and building for tomorrow. A successful football program, Mancillas said, is so much more than about winning football games.
“The bigger picture is football is a tool to help these young men develop and grow and better prepare them for life after high school,” Mancillas said.