Starting next fall, Cape Girardeau County will welcome a new high school football program to join the likes of Jackson and Cape Central — but only at the junior varsity level until 2025.
In a press conference last Wednesday morning, Saxony Lutheran officially announced that starting in the 2024-25 school year the school is going to add football as one of its fall athletic programs.
The Crusaders football team will start their first year of play with a junior varsity schedule — all road games — until the football field is complete. The 2025 season is when Saxony football is set to kick off its first official year of varsity action.
Principal Mark Ruark said that $300,000 of the school’s funding will be set towards improving what is now currently the soccer field to turn it into what will also be Saxony’s football stadium. Another $100,000, which Ruark said the school already has, is going towards purchasing the football team’s equipment.
No head coach has been hired yet, but Ruark stated the school has a “pretty good idea” of who will be on the coaching staff.
There is also no current timeline of when coaching hires will be announced, but a member of Saxony’s Strategic Process Committee, Dr. Ross Bennett, said of the person they hire as head coach as being someone with a Christian background and football knowledge.
Saxony’s athletic director Sam Sides, who played football at Jackson (1969-1972) and was an assistant coach for the Indians football team back in the 1990s and early 2000s, said this of the hiring process, “When it happens, it happens.”
Sides, of course, is also a Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee for having coached the Crusaders girls basketball team to two state final four appearances and eight district championships.
Along with sharing the field, Saxony football could be sharing athletes as well since football will coincide with fall sports like boys soccer and cross country.
Sides addressed this issue by saying that students can play more than one sport per season, like several Saxony athletes already do now.
“We have conflicts,” Sides said. “Our policy has been and will stay the same that [students] can play multiple sports if they want to — there are requirements and it is physically challenging. As long as they meet the academic and physical requirements for each sport, I believe everything will have some kids do both or more.”
Ruark said adding football as one of Saxony’s athletic programs has been in the school’s strategic plan since 2016-17, but it was not a top priority. It was also a question that has always been asked since the school’s inception.
“[Adding football] was in our 10-year plan,” Ruark said. “We feel like we are adding a program that our surrounding community will support and students will want to be a part of.”
Another benefit of this is that there’s now an option for parents to send their child to a parochial school that offers football in the county.
Dr. Bennett said, “In this area, we always had to choose between sending kids to a football school or a Christian school if there was a kid that wanted to play football. Now we don’t have to make that choice.”
As far as the 2024 JV schedule goes for Saxony football, Sides said he’s been in contact with six schools, and he’s now just “working out the details.”