CAPTION: Faith Academy of Marble Falls senior Zane Lewis and the Flames believe this year’s football team has the elements for another tremendous year. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
After two days of doing drill work and a 6-on-6 tournament with Austin Veritas, the Faith Academy of Marble Falls football team invited the Celtics to join it for the Texas brunch of champions Aug. 2: breakfast tacos and fruit.
The two teams sharing a meal together may have been unusual considering the two programs are at the top of the district standings just about every year. But this season, the two programs have a common denominator — new Flames head coach John Hallam — who spent almost a decade on the Veritas staff.
“I think it was helpful and fun,” senior Nathan Tarver said. “It helped us get a taste for what other teams will be like and work harder.”
The Flames said they enjoyed the two days with Veritas, adding it wasn’t all fun and games. It’s not supposed to be, they added, not when Faith is attempting to add its fourth district title in a row and extend a 15-game district winning streak.
“It’s a different atmosphere in the air,” senior Ian Smiles said. “With a new coaching staff, there’s a change in mentality. I think the fact that we’re sitting here with Veritas, a team that there’s bad blood there, and you can see us hanging out as one.”
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to be district champs,” Zane Lewis said. “As a senior, everything is going to change. A new head coach is coming in with a plan. Everything isn’t so different that it’s difficult to understand. I’m excited about the changes. He’s a great person, he’s fun, and I enjoy his style of play. Our last coach (Stephen Shipley) had a great offense. The new coach has a great offense, and he has a great plan.”
If the Flames believe the 2022 season was disappointing, it’s difficult to understand why. After all, earning another undefeated district championship isn’t easy and is the standard of the program. But a 46-0 loss to Conroe Covenant at home in the first round of the playoffs is not.
“It was like a gut punch because coming from sophomore to junior year, we had 10 seniors,” senior Cross Sanchez said. “We went to state, we were a top contender.”
Therefore, the seniors said, the goal is to get the program back to where it was in 2021 when the Flames finished as the Class 2A state runners-up of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. And these seniors say 2023 looks more like the 2021 squad.
“We had nine seniors at that time, and they were prepared and in shape,” Lewis said. “They practiced for that year.”
The 2021 Flames mercy-ruled eight of their 13 opponents, which meant games typically didn’t go beyond halftime. Hamlin already has told Faith families that’s not the goal right now because he wants the players to learn the offensive and defensive playbooks.
“This new coach says he’s going to get everybody to play,” Lewis said. “That excites me. Everyday is different, every day there’s something new.”
Sanchez and Tarver agreed.
“Guys are willing to step up,” Sanchez said. “This year, it’s focused. We’re making sure our young guys are ready to step up when we need them. I believe we’re able to go far. I’d like to leave a legacy with them and motivate them, help make the younger guys ready.”
“I think we’ll do well as a team,” Tarver said. “I’m excited. I think it’s going to go well.”
Tarver is playing football after committing to playing baseball almost year around for six years.
“I’m trying to do what I can to help this team win,” he said. “I want to help in any way that I can.”
Smiles pointed out success isn’t by accident or luck, noting it takes grit, hard work and sacrifice every day to commit to a common goal. That’s the legacy the Faith graduates passed from one senior class to the next. Now the class of 2024 has the opportunity to add to the tradition.
“They created a legacy,” he said. “There’s no doubt we’re not going to get outworked.”
“We’re going to be good, we’re going to be competitive,” Tarver said. “There’s no quit in us.”
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