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(Photo courtesy: Tri- City Christian High School)

Tri-City Christian High School, Small School Program Playing “Big Boy” Football

By Thomas Gutierrez

Vista CA—  If you’re not familiar with the small school division of the Coastal League —  it contains a Notre Dame quarterback commit, a public school with over 2000 students, a team that defeated a top Avocado League program a few seasons back and a school with the lowest enrollment of high school students in the county (200), the Eagles of the Tri-City Christian Academy. To simply state, the Coastal League is as competitive as it is unique.

To say that there was a major shift in the culture of Eagles football, may be more than a simple understatement. With the entrance of head coach Shane Goodwin five seasons ago (36-19 record), the savvy coach constructed a foundation of “Big Boy” football and has not backtracked from that mind-set ever since. And with progression, change in expectations becomes mandatory.

(Photo courtesy: Tri- City Christian High School)

 “TCC has a perfect setup to grow and be at an elite level. When I arrived here in 2015, the school would lose kids to bigger programs,” explained Goodwin. “We combated that by bringing in a Division-1 recruiting coordinator to bust the myth that you had to play at a larger school to get noticed.The exodus has changed and now people are coming here.”

After a successful 2018 campaign, in which the Tri-City Christian Eagles went 9-3 while capturing the Pacific League championships, Coach Goodwin and the Eagles were essentially uprooted and shifted into the competitive Coastal League this season.

Joseph. Soliz(18) Caleb Fretwell(68) and Nick Poci(14) (Photo courtesy: Tri- City Christian High School)

Returning 16 starters from the prior season, the 2019 version of the Eagles started out fast and furious as they dominated their first two opponents by outscoring and shutting them out to a tune of 89-0. Since then, the young Eagle squad has encountered a cooling off period as they have collected three successive losses to league opponents Classical Academy, Santa Fe Christian, and Bishop’s.

Even though the Eagles (4-4,0-3) are presently in the midst of a rough stretch after a recent defeat to the powerful Bishop’s, they are still in contention to make a deep run in the upcoming Division IV playoffs.

With an offensive line that averages 250-pounds, they have provided a wall of pass protection and opened up the running lanes for Trey Blackford to grab close to 30 catches and 300 yards and also allow running backs Jason Mageo and Joseph Soliz to average 5.5 of yards each time they carry the rock on the gridiron.

Led by an aggressive former Oceanside Pirate, 6-foot-1, 265-pound defensive tackle, Josiah Sagale, the Eagles have ten players with over 25 tackles this season. Assisting the tenacious Josiah (30 plus tackles,1 sack) is his brother and linebacker JP Sagale (40 plus tackles,1 sack) and free safety, Caleb Servi, covering the deepest part of the gridiron with close to 40 tackles.

Beyond the impact the smaller programs are having on the game of football, academics still maintains a major role in the decision of student athletes to attend Tri-City Christian as Coach Goodwin explained to me.“Our school has a small town family environment, high Character expectations, small class size, a school that has a 100% graduation rate, 100% college acceptance rate, and a curriculum that is research based, not based on politics,” said Goodwin. “ As well, it has one on one college counseling. A Culture that encourages multi-sport athletic participation. Our retreats and mission work are strong highlights as well.”

If you want to watch the Tri-City Christian Eagles as they make a run for the playoffs, their next game will be at the Army Navy Academy, tonight, Friday Oct 25 when they face the Warriors (1-6) of the Army and Navy Academy.

Only after one season the Eagles are not yet the power and balance of the Coastal League, but what Tri-City Christian offers on the gridiron and in the classroom, it may not be long…………….. ?