Category Archives: football

It’s over

pummeler 8 man football in santa monica

They call them the twins: Hosea Ashcraft (my son, at left) and David Hutchinson.

They may have wanted the story of the Athenians against the Persians or Charles Martel against the Arabs, but Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s battle — despite a dazzling display of force and finesse — was that of Col. Custer.

“We laid the boom on the other team,” boasted head coach Zach Scribner. “But it was the classic David vs. Goliath. When they were looking at the schedule, probably the other team was happy to play us because we were 2 and 6. But I can guarantee that walking off the field they wished they could have played anybody else because nobody is as physical as us. Nine guys against 40. If we just had a few more guys, we would have been able to beat them. At the end of the game, they were all limping.”

LCA got its playoff spot unexpectedly. The Saints had lost most of their games, but those losses were against high-ranking division 1 teams. In their own division 2, they were 2-2. The surprise playoff call-up also meant they were matched against a top bracket team.

Pat cannon TD Lighthouse Christian Academy football santa monica“We knew what we were up against,” Coach Zach said.

Lancaster Baptist School had both an offense and a defense. Most Lighthouse players played every single down. Given the uneven match-up, the result was nothing to be ashamed of: 27-68.

It wasn’t realistic to believe the impossible dream. Still the Saints played brash ball. Hosea Ashcraft — who has been the team’s enforcer all season — was again at his antics of laying hard hits on key players, sowing misgivings and intimidation in their hearts.

“I felt like I hit the Great Wall of China,” said the battering ram, who was taken out of play in the third quarter because a face guard penetrated and hit his bridge of nose, drawing blood and momentarily impairing his vision. Read the rest: Santa Monica private school sports program.

Sk8erpat now is famous in football too

sk8erpatHe could have mangled his fingers, broken his toes, fractured his ribs… any number of ER trauma from high school football.

Pat Cannon — known on Instagram is Sk8erpat with 19K followers worldwide — wants to go pro skateboarding, so what was he doing playing football for the Lighthouse Christian Academy?

On Saturday, the senior scored a touchdown, handed off and passed for touchdowns as quarterback to help the Saints win 34-30 against Cal Lutheran Wildomar in LCA’s season closer.

He gambled with jeopardizing his true passion for somebody else’s.

“I just wanted to help my teammates out. I wanted to help my school,” Pat said. “It was worth it. It was one of the best decisions of my life.”

Lighthouse christian academy football santa monica private schoolThe Saints’ high hopes for its 2019 season were dashed in the first game of the season.

That’s because Levi Photenhauer, a slick runner with unflagging tenacity, went down with a torn ACL. It was as if LCA had lost its queen early in a game of chess.

The Saints still had Seniors Marcus Scribner and Hosea Ashcraft to marshal the defense and ramrod the offense. But their core horsepower was cut by one-third. LCA only won two games all season.

Out of the crater of the first game, coaches asked soldiers to rise up and (attempt to) fill the gap.

Josie Bowen was a notable revelation. The sophomore was a beast on kickoff returns and tackling. He scored a TD Saturday that was called back because of an illegal block.

Sophomore Steven Lahood, who grew like Gulliver over the summer, rose to the challenge and became an offensive threat and a stolid defensive player. He blocked a key pass in the final moments of the game to assure LCA’s victory.

Rob Scribner, an unobtrusive freshman, exploited his unmenacing frame, to surprise with touchdown catches. David Hutchinson, a newbie to football, became a solid lineman and tackler. Brandon Farah learned how to do in real life what previously he had done only on video games, and Luke Mammana performed pinpoint kicks under pressure.

“We didn’t have all the pieces on defense, so we had to decide where we were going to bend,” said Assistant Coach Josh Scribner, father to Marcus and Rob. “Marcus is our backer or end, but we decided to put him deep so there was never a breakout. Our game plan was give them a 5-yard play, give them a 7-yard play, give them a 3-yard play. But we never give up the 60-yard breakout blow.

“For their touchdowns, they had to drive it all the way down, and time went off the clock, and we scored fast. Bam, bam, bam,” Josh said. “We’d get up, and maybe they’d make a mistake, and we’d get the ball back, and that’s when the game was played. I think the key to the game was we had a lot of people that we’re involved. Everybody made great plays.”

In the first five minutes, Lighthouse scored two touchdowns. Rob intercepted a pass, and immediately Marcus caught the pass on LCA’s first play to burn defenders and run for a touchdown. Then LCA came in for hard hits on kickoff, provoking a fumble, which Brandon recovered. On the first play, a pass to Hosea brought another TD. Read the rest of sk8erpat on football.

 

One kid didn’t cry

dejection football loss lighthouse christian academy santa monicaPretty much everybody of the Lighthouse Saints was crying, or fighting back tears, after their football loss Saturday — everybody except David Hutchinson.

The 14-20 heartbreak loss against La Verne Calvary Chapel, a similarly small school, left Lighthouse Christian Academy dejected.

But David remained buoyant, perhaps because he has experienced worse losses, namely that of his parents, who went MIA. He’s now adopted by his grandparents. He wasn’t doing well in a previous school before coming to Lighthouse.

“Even when we lose, football is fun because it brings us all together like brothers,” the sophomore said after the game. “We played our hardest. It’s made me stronger and closer with all the boys. We know we’ve got each other’s backs no matter what. We have a love for each other.

“At this school, the teachers actually care. In other schools, the teachers don’t care. They’re just doing it for the money. And the students are the best. They’re like a family. It really touches you when the teachers actually care.”

Cue the warm fuzzies.

So not everybody went home dejected. It’s important to keep perspective: the battles won off the field or more important than those lost on the field. Read the rest of winning souls, not football games.

Bad blood among brothers — a football rivalry between Christian schools in LA

bad blood among brothersThere hasn’t been so much bad blood between Christian brothers since the Baptists accused the Pentecostals of being of the devil about 100 years ago.

The last time Lighthouse Christian Academy beat their perennial archrivals Hillcrest Christian in 8-man football was 2014.

That year, Ricky Rand cheekily snatched the ball out of the cocked arm of the quarterback, who was ready to throw, and ran for a touchdown. That snarky steal typified a game of gleeful humiliation.

Hillcrest never forgave Lighthouse and each year since then has exacted new revenge. Both teams are called “the Saints” but appear to think each other “the Satanists.”

On Saturday, Lighthouse lost 25-56, and at the final whistle Hillcrest ran into its corner and gloated and howled while Lighthouse glowered and hurled insults. Coaches stood midfield to make sure words didn’t come to blows.

“Let’s go! Let’s play one more game right now!” Hosea Ashcraft yelled across the field.

They weren’t just hollow words.

Lighthouse tends to compensate its inexperience and lack of execution with pure stamina and hard hits that bring results in the third and fourth quarter. They wear teams down. Even if they don’t win, they send opponents home with some real stingers — and a measure of respect.

In what amounted to the last significant play of the game, Josie Bowen rocked Hillcrest quarterback from his blind side, foiling a conversion attempt.

Hosea hit a kid so hard that he knocked the ball free late in the third quarter for a turnover that the blood-sniffing Saints thought marked their turnaround point.

The crash and kill strategy wore down mighty Milken Community School on Sept 20 and earned the praise of opposing coach of Downy Calvary Chapel Christian School on Sept. 8. He called tiny Lighthouse, with enrollment 45, to the military last stand of the 300.

Read the rest of football rivalry among Christian schools.

‘Man of God’ headband gets linebacker Demario Davis busted

5cdc60d960975.imageHe used to get in trouble by dishonoring God. Now Demario Davis gets into trouble by honoring him.

The New Orleans Saints linebacker was busted by the NFL with a $7,000 fine for wearing a headband that says, “Man of God,” in a Sept 22 game against the Seattle Seahawks for violating the NFL’s no-personal propaganda policy. The NFL has since reversed the decision on appeal.

“I was a guy headed in the wrong direction fast and God radically changed me,” he told The Increase. “I get to play this wonderful game of football and I’m blessed to do it but my life is so much more than that in God. That’s what I really want people to know about me.”

Growing up without a father figure, Demario looked up to the older, tough guys who were drug dealers and career criminals in his neighborhood.

“They were my heroes,” he proclaimed on a YouTube video. “I wanted to show them that I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t afraid to be a bad boy. I just wanted to impress them.”

At 14, he was already using marijuana, alcohol and sex. When he tried to steal a wallet from another kid at school, he got expelled.

“Demario, what have you done?” his mother implored on the phone. “You have messed up your life.”

The quavering voice and deeply troubled emotion from mom shook him.

Still he persisted in sin. He and some friends were breaking into cars and Demario punched a window out. The shattering glass gashed his arm severely. He is still scarred today from the wound. Had the cut slit his wrist, he might have died, he says.

That night he heard an audible voice from God: That’s strike number two. The first strike was you getting kicked out of school. The second strike is you almost killed yourself tonight.

“That scared me to the point that the rest of my junior and senior year, I cleaned up my act.” Read the rest of Christian Demario Davis Man of God headband.

Who was #9? LCA football

Lighthouse lossSaints fans spent the whole game Saturday against Meadows School waiting for Lighthouse’s now-typical late game rally.

They thought they saw it when a totally unrecognizable player intercepted a long pass late the second quarter. Who is number 9? fans asked.

The 5’3″, 130-pounder was easily the shortest and smallest player on the field. Saturday’s was his first game because, new to the school, Johnny Flores was ruled out of the first month of games.

Unfortunately, Johnny’s brilliant pick didn’t spark an LCA comeback.

Nor did Marcus Scribner‘s block of a field goal attempt.

Nor did a TD run by the senior Marcus in the third quarter.

Nothing could reboot LCA.

The prince’s kiss didn’t wake the sleeping princess. The glass slipper never find Cinderella’s foot. The frog croaked unheard and unfound in the stream. There was no fairy tale ending.

Lighthouse limped to 7-68 loss to Meadows School, which traveled from Las Vegas because there reportedly aren’t many 8-man private school teams in Sin City so they have to pick up games wherever they can and usually travel far.

Lighthouse Christian Academy looked like the car that keeps stalling out on the road.

Missing was their bulldogish determination to bring the game to bigger players and humble bigger schools. The Saints didn’t run with typical speed or break their opponents with scary hits. They fumbled and ran into each other. There weren’t too many bright spots.

“We made a lot of mistakes. We lacked a lot of heart and effort,” surmised Head Coach Zach Scribner grimly. “We got a lot of work to do. If we don’t want to feel like this, we’ve got to make practice a priority. At practice we’ve got to give 110% so that when we’re in the game, we know what it’s like.”

Read the rest about breakout star in Santa Monica football

It’s Africa Time

Wakanda powerNine years ago, Josie Bowen was the awkward, shy adopted missionaries’ kid from West Africa who didn’t fit in the small private school in Santa Monica.

Today, the sophomore is ready to take over America.

Milken Community School was probably glad they racked up 47 points in the first half against Lighthouse Christian Academy to assure their final victory.

Because a sleeping giant was waking.

In the second half, Josie beasted out. On kickoff return, he ran the full 80-yard field, smashing through Wildcats, to score a touchdown. There were no cuts, no jukes, just Cruise missile launched straight up the field.

This was no fluke. The volcano had been rumbling for three games. On Lighthouse’s fourth game Thursday night, Josie Bowen was in full eruption.

Gentle Jekyll transformed into hideous Hyde, and CIF’s southern section 8-man football won’t ever be the same again.

Josie made seven tackles, three kickoff returns and one run. He appeared to harness the kinetic energy from hits received to increase his speed and power. Or maybe the Vibranium kicked in.

Fledgling Lighthouse suffered a serious casualty in its first game when point man, Levi Photenhauer tore his ACL. Fellow senior Marcus Scribner would be hard-pressed to drive the team forward single-handedly and a dour season was forecast.

But other players stepped up. Sophomore Steven Lahood and senior Hosea Ashcraft delivered on offense, and skater Pat Cannon showed a previously unseen maturity as QB. But the biggest revelation was the kid weened on soccer in Africa.

“I was kind of lost last year. I was crying, like, ‘I don’t wanna be on this team,'” Josie says. “My team did amazing blocks, and I just ran through the hole. I feel amazing. I just feel like I ran 100 laps and I feel nothing. I just ran through the herd.” Read the rest of African missionary turns beast in American football high school.

Gamer turns the tide to the (real) game

brandon farah, hero of lighthouse christian academyBrandon Farah hadn’t figured prominently in any play this year. Or last year.

But on Friday, the senior — who’s 99 parts gamer and 1 part football player — came up big in the third quarter with an interception that hammered the nail into the coffin of Beacon Hill Classical Academy. His heroics, in the red zone, preceded a 70-yard touchdown run by Marcus Scribner that left no doubt that tide had turned. Lighthouse Christian Academy won 56-28.

“I didn’t know the ball hit me until I got it, until I looked down,” Brandon said, projecting modesty in his moment of glory.

Brandon Farah, the softie, played hard. The cocoon burst, and the kid who always said he loved football was finally playing real football. Not just on a monitor.

“It was a great game. It was a great four quarters,” said Justin Kayne, offensive coordinator filling in for head coach Zach Scribner who was out sick. “We came out and it was a battle. We scored, they scored, we scored, they scored. We made a few adjustments. Our guys answered the call, and look what happened when we played four quarters of sound, hard-hitting football.

“This was a statement game,” Kayne added. “We made a statement. This is what Lighthouse football is all about. This is one win. We are going to build on this win. We’re going to continue to build on this.”

The Saints now have one win and two losses in CIF Southern Section 8-man football.

No one could have predicted a landslide victory by half time. Both teams seemed pretty even, score for score, man for man, plays for plays. One ref called the high-scoring 1st quarter a “track event” because there was so much running for touchdowns. LCA was ahead by a slim 22-20.

When the Saints fumbled in the 2nd quarter, it gave the Gryphons a chance to pull ahead.

However, the team from Camarillo failed to capitalize on that gift. In response, the Santa Monica boys scored. It was 30-20 at half time.

In the second half, both teams wanted to come out strong. LCA got the upper hand.

Marcus Scribner was running rampant with the ball. He was burning opponents with speed, breaking ankles with cuts and punishing with stinging hits when Gryphons were making tackles. He smashed them, strong-armed them and ground down their will to put up a fight. Every WWF body slam was an injection of intimidation for opponents.

While Marcus was playing the unstoppable superhero, his LCA teammates were stepping up and making contributions.

Senior Hosea Ashcraft, alternating with Marcus, ran the ball to keep the Gryphon defense guessing. Originally a soccer player who never really understood the intricacies of football, Hosea was dashing with speed, power and cuts that he had never made before.

Quarterback Pat Canon was making unaccustomed tackles on defense, and secret weapon Steven Lahood was catching passes when the opponents concentrated too much on countering the “thunder and lightning” attack of Marcus and Hosea.

Even the kid brother, freshman Rob Scribner made a 2-point conversion reception. Overwhelmed with excitement that as a slender and small freshman he had succeeded in varsity football, Rob spiked the football, a violation that penalized the Saints kickoff 10 yards.

The offensive and defensive lines are to be credited. The Gryphons couldn’t make a single sack.

But the runaway surprise was Brandon. Read the rest of Making men out of boys through football at Christian school in Santa Monica.

300 (how a small Christian school in Santa Monica puts up a fight in football)

Lighthouse Santa Monica footballThis was not King Leonidas’ battle. It was Gideon’s.

After witnessing Lighthouse’ undermanned but courageous stand against his team, Downey’s coach Mike Nuño compared his Santa Monica opponents to the Old Testament hero who vanquished the Midianites with an army of just 300.

“You’re like Gideon’s warriors,” Nuño told them after Saturday’s game. “You guys are the 300 that stayed and say, ‘Man, we’re going to go out there and do this thing.’ It takes heart. You guys battle and battle and battle. You guys come out with a small group year after year after year and fight until the end.”

If Lighthouse Christian Academy got compared to Gideon’s 300, it lost like Leonidas’ 300, overwhelmed by the endless swarming hordes of the Persian Empire. Despite a late first-half, valiant but quixotic surge, the Saints lost 21-62 against Calvary Chapel Christian School of Downey in CIF’s Southern Section 8-man football league.

“I coached 16 players one year, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Nuño said. “You come out with 10 or 12 players. I applaud you guys for that.”

LCA and the Grizzlies were roughly even at the beginning of the game as players sized each other up, identified strengths and weaknesses and sought to exploit opportunities. Realizing their superior firepower, the Grizzlies began to pull away, making the score 6-24.

But then a short kickoff gave Lighthouse a short field to drive for a touchdown. Senior Marcus Scribner caught a pass in the 2nd quarter for a touchdown to make it — with the subsequent 2 point conversion — 14-24.

Downey discovered they could essentially block Lighthouse as long as they needed to make the long bomb pass and quickly added a TD.

When Lighthouse tried to reply, the Grizzlies stymied their advance. Despite a dazzling one-handed catch and subsequent power scramble from senior Hosea Ashcraft, the Saints were unable to capitalize and had to punt.

The Grizzlies shot their effective long pass down the right side to 1st and goal. It seemed they would pull away definitively in the scoring. But sophomore David Hutchinson tackled a running back for a 2-yard loss, and two passes bounced off the receivers hands brought an unexpected stop to the Downey steamroll. Read the rest of Christian school Santa Monica football fight.

The quiet kid is heard in football

lighthouse christian academy football santa MonicaHe was the quietest of five brothers. While his older brothers fought and his younger brother was being the mischievous clown, Steven Lahood was the quiet — and obedient — of the siblings, both at home and at school.

But Friday, Steven made himself heard, first with a touchdown on the second play of the game and then by stripping the ball from Teach Tech Charter High player and running almost for a touchdown in what was Lighthouse’s last chance to overtake its opponents.

Despite the sophomore’s eruption on the football field, Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica lost its opening game 25-38 in its sputtered bid to establish league dominance this year.

2019 was supposed to be the year for the Saints. With a crop of talented, speedy and big seniors, LCA hoped to win by big margins.

But key man, Levi Photenhauer, injured his knee in the first quarter and went out for the game. Without the speed of “Cheese” (as coach calls him for his shock of red hair), the Saints’ offense centered pretty much around hulkish Marcus Scribner, who trains constantly and wants to crack the NFL.

“We became one-dimensional,” said Head Coach Zach Scribner, Marcus’ uncle.

Marcus delivered.

After a controversial ref’s call annulled a Lighthouse touchdown because of a smart block by Marcus, the blond-haired kid returned undaunted to the offense and caught a pass to not be denied the TD.

But it was not enough. At the end of the day, the Tech’s Rams from Los Angeles, weaved and wobbled their way through the Saints enough times to secure the win. Read the rest about Small Christian School’s football team.

Tua Tagovailoa honors Jesus with eye black

tua crimson tide christianWhen the collegiate national championship game is played Monday, the two quarterbacks competing against each other on the gridiron will both be Christians.

Trevor Lawrence at Clemson and Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama are outspoken believers who put their faith before football.

tua points to godLawrence boasts a 67% passing accuracy this season, while Tua enjoyed 70% pinpoint precision.

Tua, whose full Somoan name is Tuanigamanuolepola, made Hawaiian waves (he’s from Hawaii, so of course…) when he posted a picture of himself with eye black painted in the form of the cross under his eyes against Tennessee University.

“Jesus pride!!! Go Tua…and all others who stand for Christ,” one person commented on Facebook. “I appreciate the fact that he isn’t at all shy about his faith. Way to go Tua!”

tua tagovailoaTua selected the Crimson Tide of Alabama University despite intense competition for the quarterback position because Christianity is a big part of the locker room. The previous year, Jalen Hurts won the SEC offensive player of the year as the Crimson QB.

“A lot of people are rooted in the Word over here just like back home,” Tagovailoa noted on BamaInsider. “The Southern hospitality is almost the same as the love and the kindness that they show back at home.

with his parents diana and galu“You have to go places to compete, so why not come to the best place?” he added. “You want to play with the best, I guess. That’s kind of my thing. Anywhere you go, you’re going to have to compete.”

Tua was given a chance to play during some blowout games during his freshman season. But in the championship game when Hurts was losing at the first half, Tua was given the nod to lead his team to a comeback 26-23 victory against Georgia last season. Read the rest of the story of Tua Christian

With bow and arrow gesture, Brandin Cooks celebrates TD and glorifies God

brandon cooks archerNicknamed the “Archer,” Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks celebrates touchdowns by mimicking a bow and arrow shot as a reference to the Bible.

“It’s just another way to be able to glorify God rather than just pointing to the sky,” Cooks says in Sports Spectrum. “Just bringing a unique way, so my hope is when fans see me, they see God in me. That’s the biggest part of it all. If anything, I’m shooting it at God. It’s my way of thanking him and bringing a little twist to it.”

Cooks alludes to Psalms 144:6: “Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.”

brandon cooks christian ramsA devout Christian, Cooks shoots plenty of scriptural arrows through social media.

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Whatever you do walk with boldness, and know you are fully equipped,” he tweeted recently.

Cooks was born on Sept. 25, 1993 in Stockton, California, and lived there with his father, Worth Cooks, and mother, Andrea Cooks. His father died of a heart attack when he was only 6-years-old so Wayne and his three brothers were raised by their mother.

brandon cooks statsHe began to show promise in football playing for Stockton’s Lincoln High School. He grabbed 141 receptions for 2,508 yards and 28 touchdowns, which ranked him the 26th-best wide receiver and the 240th overall prospect in his class, according to the Recruiting Network.

Cooks then attended Oregon State University, where he caught 226 receptions for 3,272 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a senior, he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 2014. In Cooks’ first career game, he made seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.

This made him the youngest player, at 20, to catch a touchdown pass in the NFL since Reidel Anthony in 1997. As he closed his first season, Cooks had 53 receptions gaining 550 yards and three touchdowns before injuring his thumb in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In 2015 Cooks began the season as the #1 wide receiver for the Saints. In the Week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles he received over 100 yards in one game for the first time in his career. His five receptions totaled 107 yards and a touchdown. Read the rest of Brandin Cooks Christian.

Clemson’s QB is Christian. So is ‘Bama’s.

christian quarter backs national championshipClemson freshman sensation quarterback Trevor Lawrence made clear that he doesn’t care as much about football as he does about Jesus.

“Eerily similar” to Deshaun Watson, Lawrence made heads turn as he threw for 2,933 total yards, 27 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 65.5 completion percentage, leading his team to the national championship game on Jan. 7th.

“Football is important to me, obviously, but it’s not my life; it’s not like the biggest thing in my life, I would say my faith is,” the 6’5” 215-pound precision passer said in a postgame interview. “That just comes from knowing who I am outside of (football). No matter how big the situation is, it’s not going to define me. I put my identity in what Christ says and who He thinks I am and who He says I am.

trevor lawrence christian“So really, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what people think about me or how good they think I play or whatever.”

Clemson University is happy to have the calm, cool and collected QB marshaling their missiles.

“When he first got here, you could always tell. He just had a presence about him. His talent, it’s fun to watch.” says senior offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt on The State website. “I always sensed it in practice.” Read he rest of Trevor Lawrence Christian.

Product of rape, Vernon Turner overcame seeing his mom shoot up heroin to join the NFL

vernon turner parentsWhen 11-year-old Vernon Turner caught Mom in the bathroom about to shoot up heroin one day after coming home from school, she calmly told him sit down and watch.

“I want you to see me do this because I don’t ever want you to do this,” she said, “because this is going to kill me.”

The stupefied boy responded: “If you know it’s gonna kill you, why do you keep doing it?”

As she tied the thin rubber band around her arm and inserted the syringe into her vein, she explained how she had been gang-raped at 18. She took heroin, she said, “to not remember, to take away the pain.”

vernon turner nfl playerAs a teen, mom lit up a room with her smile. She was a track star, a flag girl and a baton twirler.

But her youthful innocence died one afternoon in Brooklyn on her way home when two men grabbed her, violently hauled her to a rooftop, where they covered her mouth and took turns on her with another man. They only spared her life because they heard someone coming and scattered quickly, Vernon explains in a 2016 online “letter to his younger self.”

Overcome by fear, shame and confusion, Mom never reported the rape. When a few weeks later she found out she was pregnant, she decided against abortion.

vernon turner early yearsThe baby boy — product of that murderous aggression — was Vernon.

“Mom loves you, Vernon. But you remind her,” she told him. “No matter what she does to forget about what those men did to her. There you are, in her own home, every day … reminding her.”

Mom slurred on about how she had turned to prostitution to feed her dope habit. Eventually, she had met an Italian New Yorker who took her in to his home on Staten Island and gave her four more children but mistreated her.

Vernon was stunned by these revelations. He had known about the drug use, but he hadn’t known about the other harsh realities.

Option_B_VernorFour years later, his mother was dying, and Vernon actually prayed that she would die — so he could get on with his life and salvage some semblance of a childhood.

Because mom was always “sick,” he had to cook dinner, braid hair and change the diapers. mom and dad always argued. All the time, she was either on drugs, out searching for her next fix or stuck in an unconscious lull between highs. When she looked at Vernon, it was as if she looked right through him, as if he were invisible.

So he bent down at his bedside and prayed that the nightmare could be over.

Then she died.

After a life of drugged-out and drugged-starved “sickness,” she caught a real sickness, pneumonia, which swiped away what was left of her life within three days. Read the rest of Vernon Turner Christian.

While in the NFL, he took cocaine. Today, Miles McPherson is a pastor

miles-mcpherson-the rock churchMiles McPherson wanted to see how they made crack cocaine, so he went to a crack house with a buddy.

There the NFL Chargers football player saw a skeleton of a man, dallying with death because of his addiction. McPherson despised him. “Man, look at that pitiful guy. Drugs is killing him.”

Then the God he didn’t even know spoke to McPherson: What about you? He was in your seat not that long ago.

mcpherson milesThat was McPherson’s first wake-up call. “I asked myself, ‘What am I doing? I’m in the NFL. I’m living my dream. And I’m destroying it.’”

Today, McPherson is the senior pastor of the Rock Church, a megachurch in San Diego with 15,000 attending weekly. The church focuses on reaching the lost through 150 specialized ministries.

McPherson was born to a nurse and a cop in Long Island. He was confident in his playing ability, even though he attended a Division 3 university he predicted he would make the NFL.

A coach mocked his aspirations. “He told other players behind my back that I was too small, too slow, too short. But that just motivated me to keep working.”

mcpherson marriagesOn his first year at the University of New Haven, the team had its first winning season, going 6-3. During his second year, the team was undefeated. In his third year, he was named “All American.” In his fourth year, the Rams recruited him.

“I didn’t know God, but I just knew in my heart that I was going to play in the NFL and that my life was going to mean something,” he says.

Almost as soon as he got picked by the Rams in 1982, fellow players introduced him to cocaine.

“It was one of the peer pressure things, fitting in,” McPherson says. “I was a rookie, and there’s about six guys in the room. I didn’t know what we were going in for, and they just pulled out cocaine. I said, ‘Oh man.’ But I saw everybody else doing it, so I thought, ‘This can’t be that bad.’ I knew it was wrong. I knew it was dangerous, but I lived on the edge.”

The first try led to addiction. Soon, he couldn’t stop taking cocaine. It became a futile, inexorable search for fulfillment through partying.

After one season, he was traded to the then-San Diego Chargers.

Then a fellow player shared the gospel with him. After a night of partying in 1984, he made the decision to call it quits to drugs. He retired from football in 1985.

“I said, ‘I’m done. I’m gonna give God the commitment I’ve given football, the commitment I’ve given drugs, the commitment I’ve given fun. I’m going to give God that commitment.” Read the rest Miles McPherson pastor of Rock Church

Did Aaron Hernandez get saved before he died?

aaron hernandez thomas hodgsonBefore ex-Patriots star Aaron Hernandez hung himself in his jail cell, the sheriff was reaching out to him with the gospel.

“I did read the Bible,” the New England All-Pro tight end told Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, according James Patterson’s All American Murder excerpted in the New York Post. “The weirdest thing happened: I opened it, randomly, and it was all about me,” he said.

But before long, Hernandez’s defense team got wind of the growing closeness between their client and the sheriff — and they demanded a transfer to another jail. They didn’t want any ‘fraternizing with the enemy’ during the ongoing trial.

hodgson reach out to aaron hernandezSheriff Hodgson, a grandstanding God-fearing American, who styles himself after Joe Arpaio, wasn’t fishing for evidence but for souls. A zealous Christian, Hodgson believed that a high profile story of redemption would teach the nation’s youth the dangers of sin and the power of God’s forgiveness. But, after 18 months of chatting him up about the Bible, his progress got cut short.

When Hernandez, at age 27, was found suspended by a bed sheet noosed around his neck and tied to the window at 3:00 a.m. on April 19, 2017, he had written John 3:16 on his forehead. His Bible was open to the same passage. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead an hour later.

aaron-hernandez-patriots-christianHernandez’ meteoric rise to the top NFL team and his tragic demise following the murder of his fiancée’s sister’s boyfriend is a story of the hollowness of the American Dream without God.

Hernandez was an anomaly in football. While street toughs abound in the bruising sport, most of them leave the streets behind when they enter the glory of the gridiron. They have traded up for the trappings of wealth and fame.

But Hernandez didn’t transition. He had a 7,100-square-foot house and a $40 million contract, but he stayed loyal to his “hood” and thug life.

Hernandez relished violence and feared nothing. Together with Rob Gronkowski, they formed the most feared pair of tight ends in the NFL. While Gronk offered some of the stickiest hands and trickiest feet, Hernandez was the rampaging ball runner who was turned on by pain. To have either one on your team was a huge advantage; the Patriots had both.

Then in 2013, Hernandez was arrested. In April 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of the murder of Odin Lloyd, who dated his fiancée’s sister. Two years later, he was acquitted of a double slaying — just days before his suicide. Speculation abounded, but no one could ever ascertain why he killed or why he committed suicide.

aaron-hernandez-arrest-350x320Thomas Hodgson is better known as the tough-talking sheriff of Bristol County than as a Christian. He deprived inmates of TVs, reduced meal portions and sent out shackled prisoners to work in crews. He offered to build Trump’s wall along the Mexican border and charged his prisoners $5/day/room to help offset prison costs.

In Massachusetts where Democrats run deep, his law and order ethics resonated with many blue-collar workers and ran contrary to the elitists that ran the state. Was he politicking like Joe Arpaio, the anti-immigrant Arizona sheriff?

Maybe. But he was also genuinely concerned for the spiritual well-being of his inmates. To gasps of civil rights hounds, he ripped out equipment from the prison gym and made it into a spiritual retreat center.

Growing up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Hodgson was one of 13 children. He went to Catholic mass every morning at 6:00 a.m. and studied at a Catholic military high school before taking college classes in criminal justice.

The Bristol County House of Corrections in Massachusetts was under Hodgson’s administration; 41% of its population were defendants, according to the Boston Globe.

John-3-16-hernandez-bible-suicide-350x229

Hernandez’s Bible, open to John 3:16 when he hung himself in his cell

When Hernandez was brought there, Hodgson took a special interest in his high profile inmate. He spoke frequently about him publicly.

“He had the world in his hands. His destiny was set for greatness, until he made a bad decision. And suddenly, his life changed,” he sternly warned eighth graders on a field trip to the Fall River Justice Center on Law Day.

But Hodgson wasn’t just capitalizing on the footballer’s fame for self-aggrandizement. Behind the scenes, he was genuinely interested in the condition of his soul. Taking advantage of his role as maximum authority in the jail, Hodgson began to meet Hernandez privately and talk to him about his faith and his father, who died when he was 16.

“There’s a saying my father used to always use with my 12 brothers and sisters,” Hodgson told him. “He used to say, ‘Always remember, God writes straight with crooked lines.’” Read the rest of Aaron Hernandez Christian?

Even greater glory after Super Bowl for Nick Foles

Nick-Foles-JesusImprobably, second string quarterback Nick Foles carried the Philadelphia Eagles to lofty heights with their first ever Super Bowl championship. But he may soar to even greater heights after he retires.

Foles, a born-again Christian, wants to be a first string pastor.

“I wanted to be a pastor in a high school. It’s on my heart,” Foles told the AP. “I took a leap of faith last year and signed up to take classes at seminary. I want to continue to learn and challenge my faith. It’s a challenge because you are writing papers that are biblically correct. You want to impact people’s hearts.”

nick-foles-mvpFoles — and the Eagles — were somewhat of the underdogs of this year’s permutation of football glory. Not many thought they could out-pass Tom Brady or out-fox the Coach Bill Bellichick. After all, it’s no fluke that Brady and the Patriots have won five Super Bowls.

And when first-string QB Carson Wentz tore his ACL in the playoffs, there were those who saw the Eagles falling to earth with no more wind in their feathers.

In stepped Foles. He humiliated the Vikings to clinch the NFC conference championship.

nick-Foles-wife-Tori-Moore-FolesThen he squared off with Brady, the QB famous for making NFL players look like a gaggle of high schoolers. He faced him calmly.

“I felt calm,” he said in CBN. “We have such a great group of guys, such a great coaching staff. We’re very blessed.”

Then Foles executed an audacious pass reception for a TD. It was a trick play. But what silenced his detractors was the fact that Brady had just attempted basically the same play — and failed. The king of the gridiron bumbled the ball.

Did Foles intentionally mock Brady, succeeding where the Master had fallen?

Whatever the motive, Foles was named MVP of the game. He also earned bragging rights: He became the first QB to pass and receive touchdown passes in a Super Bowl.

He bested Brady 41-33 and bagged the bragging rights.

But he isn’t bragging: “All glory to God,” he said. Read the rest about Nick Foles Christian.

Passion for teaching. Compassion for students.

jordan-payton-kathy-payton

Kathy Patyon’s son, Jordan, plays for the Cleveland Browns in the NFL. He, too, is a strong Christian.

Today Mrs. Kathy Payton is the fountain of love and advice for many of the girls at Lighthouse Christian Academy. Maybe the reason why she’s so understanding was she went through some struggles as a young lady.

Born in the “Windy City” of Chicago, Mrs. Payton was forced to go to Catholic mass, and it became a boring chore. As a teenager, she drifted away from God and starting drinking and going to parties. She didn’t care or think about if it was wrong.

She moved to Los Angeles and found true love in her quiet husband, Jerry. Still something didn’t feel right. A voice kept telling her to grab a Bible and read it. But she didn’t understand the sentences she read.

Her husband used to turn on the TV, and there would be a preacher relating to exactly what they were going through in her family, but she would say, “I don’t need to watch that.”

Her life was starting to get stressful and all she wanted was some peace. “I did pray once or twice, but I felt like God wasn’t working fast enough, like there was some type of wall blocking my prayer.”

Her life was falling apart and her relationship with her husband wasn’t the same and she wanted to leave.

Then one day, she walked into a store, and this lady invited her to church and prayer meetings. She went to church and felt like God was speaking to her in a way she couldn’t explain. The words filled her spirit. She became a “different person.” Read the rest about LCA’s Independent Study Program teacher.

Would you recognize him?


Nobody pays any attention to this bum, despite having pretty good soccer skills — at least not until he pulls off his beard, mustache and wig. Then, everybody wants to pay attention to Cristiano Ronaldo, star for Portugal.

Would you recognize Jesus if He passed you on the street? When you treat kindly one of the least of my brethren, you treat Me kindly. — Jesus said.

How to score a signed Messi jersey if you live in Afghanistan

Aghan boy Messi jersey

Be exceptionally cute. And poor. Living in a dangerous part of the world. Murtaza Ahmadi’s brother took this picture of him and posted it on the internet. While death via the Taliban has hit most families around them, it still has not struck them directly, the brother says.

messi jersey

He was just a 5-year-old who loves soccer. The family, which subsists on farming, watches soccer as a distraction from the horrors that surround them. And Murtaza decided his favorite player was the Argentinian star who plays for Barcelona. So he wanted a jersey. He even cried.

But those jersey are too expensive for the poor (heck, they’re even too expensive for me). So his brother hooked him up with a plastic bag hand painted with colored sharpies. The kid was content. The kid was cute. His brother took the picture and posted it.

The internet went crazy, reposting and proliferating. People were asking: Who is this kid? Even Messi saw it and wanted to give the kid a real one. As a spokesman for Unicef, Messi through the charitable organization tracked him down and handed over the jersey (not personally).

Now my heart is warmed. I love Messi all the more for his kind gesture. I love this kid. The only bummer is that I still don’t have a Messi jersey myself.

Gold on and off the field, Kaka belongs to God

real-madrid-v-ajax-kaka-_2870368After Kaka impossibly threaded the ball through three Manchester United defenders and slotted for goal in the 2007 Champions League semi-final, he ripped off his jersey to show the world his T-shirt emblazoned: “I belong to Jesus.”

When his team, AC Milan, claimed the title — second in prestige to the World Cup, it was anti-climatic compared to Kaka’s sensational solo performance in the semi-final. He was just too quick and precise, always a nano-second ahead of defenders. In fact, when a stalwart defender came crashing in to shut down the attack with physicality, he wound up smashing his own teammate instead.

It was his most glorious moment in world-class soccer — and yet it was completely devoid of glory.

article-0-0071E53F000004B0-697_634x429That’s because for the Brazilian crack, glory is a thing belonging to God. Currently he plays for Orland City SC in the U.S.’s Major League Soccer. When his ball-kicking days are over, he plans to study theology and become a pastor. That’s when the real glory will start.

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite became good at soccer because he was skinny and had to work harder than everybody else to excel. In 2001, he was catapulted to international fame when he scored two goals to win the Brazilian championship for his native Sao Paolo FC, which had never won a championship.

His little brother in childhood couldn’t properly pronounce his name and simply settled on “Kaka.” Graciously for the rest of us (who similarly can’t pronounce his name), the moniker stuck.

God and goals always went together for Kaka. Born into a devout Christian family, he experienced Christ in a profound way when he was baptized at age 12.

“Something supernatural happened to me. I cannot explain it, but after that experience I grew closer to God and began to know Him in a more in-depth way,” Kaka said. “My life changed and was never the same again.”

He won the respect of his teammates and fans by being a young man of integrity while witnessing boldly for Christ. He was involved in a Bible study and Athletes for Christ. Unlike many other stars who waver in the spotlight, Kaka has always held strong convictions. He married his childhood sweetheart, Caroline Celico, in 2005. Both had maintained their virginity until their wedding.

From Brazil, Kaka moved to Italy in 2003 to play for AC Milan for a transfer fee of €8.5 million. Within a month, he was a starter for the team. Read the rest of the story.

Editor’s Note: This story was written by my high school student, Adrian Brizuela, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica. Of course, I edited and helped polish it. I’m proud of him. I hope he realizes that he is not only good at soccer.

One coach is chill, the other, read to kill

Christian high school coachesIf you mess up on the football field, one coach is forgiving. For the other coach, that’s the end of you.

“I’m probably too soft,” admits Coach Zach Scribner. “And Justin is maybe a little too intense. We sometimes disagree on strategy and how to push the players to their potential, but I always stand behind him”

When it comes to coaching style, Justin Kayne and Scribner, who tag-team train LCA‘s 8-man team, could hardly be more of polar opposites. Though they are inseparable friends from high school, they are not Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on the sideline or on the practice field.

Scribner is an easy-going guy who likes golf. Kayne revels in the testosterone proofing of this American iteration of Roman gladiator sport.

When things go bad, Scribner is unflappable, while Kayne throws his clipboard down and growls about writing letters to league organizers for a bad call from refs.

Scribner perfected his coaching technique by playing Madden. Kayne credits his coach, former LCA Principal George Neos, a Dartmouth star, with smelting steel in his heart. Read the rest of the article here: Christian sports.

Why my son got injured

IMG_8402When Robert said he wanted to play football for the Lighthouse Christian Academy, a small Christian high school in Santa Monica, I responded no, no, no. NO WAY, JOSE!

But the school didn’t have enough players, and he really wanted to play. So I told him to work out hard, build up his muscles and terrifyingly signed the papers for him to play.

Eventually, I caught on to something much more important than sports. Football was a draw. It pulled people into our school and church — and hence also to Christ. Since it was evangelism, I could no longer front reservations because we give our all for Christ.

Actually, his first injury, over two years ago, came from soccer. His recovery was long. He got back into sports and was a key member of LCA’s football team. As a senior, he injured his other ACL. As I write this, the surgeon just told me that the operation went well.

Playing high school sports create lasting memories. But something more important is at work at our school. Students are being brought to salvation and discipleship (they learn discipline, effort, team work, responsibility and other biblical characteristics).

How can you say no to your kid participating in Christian school sports — whatever the sport?

Jordan Payton and Kate Sommer: record breakers, classmates, friends

JordanPrays

Jordan Payton thanks God after a touchdown.

They were born together, played together, studied together and competed against each other. Whether it was Olympic Day or dodge ball, Jordan Payton, growing tall and strong even as a kid, always beat Kate Sommer.

Now at age 21, Kate finally beat Jordan.

Both students playing Div. 1 sports have broken their respective universities’ records – Kate for digs on women’s volleyball and Jordan for receptions on football. And though they broke records almost at the same time, Kate hit the new high first.

kate sommer on court

“She got me on this one,” Jordan said after practice recently. “She definitely did.”

Kate hit gold in mid-October with four years of digs for Washington State University, spiking the previous high mark of 1,744.

Jordan caught his 194th pass on Nov. 21 – about three weeks later.

“It’s crazy that we both broke records at the same time,” Kate said. “I would always some in second. He would always win. I was always behind him. I actually wanted to beat him.”

Jordan Payton Kate SommerThe feat is indeed extraordinary, in part, because both record-busters came from a tiny school, Lighthouse, which averages 100 enrollment with its primary, middle and high school combined.

But not only did they both go to the same school, they were in the same classroom, which oscillated between 10 and 12 students year-to-year. After middle school, Jordan attended Oaks Christian for its high profile football program – and so inseparable friends started to wend separate paths into the world.

The story of Jordan’s and Kate’s friendship literally started in the womb. Both are youngest children, so their parents became friends as their older brothers and sisters played together in sports, in the Lighthouse Church and in the schools. Read the rest of this fascinating account about record breakers in this Christian school Los Angeles.

Tex’s Team | This is the school where I teach and my son studies

Santa Monica Christian high school | footballThen Tex got mad.

In the first half of Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s loss to The Rock Academy of Point Loma on Sept. 4, Tex Hagoski played well.

In the second half, Tex played like Attila the Hun. He scored the Saints’ only touchdown and converted, smashing and spinning his way mercilessly through four defenders to fall across the End Zone line.

The Saints were simply outgunned. For 10 years, the Warriors were in the much more taxing 11-man league. But they voluntarily descended to 8-man football this year, and the they brought with them overwhelming experience. The Saints lost 8-42 on the San Diego gridiron.

Tex’s runs and tackles were a Lighthouse signature. By coaches’ estimates, he carried the ball for 170 yards, made 10 solo tackles and joined five group tackles. It was his reception on a gun sprint pass that brought respectability to the Saints’ loss. Read the rest of the article: Santa Monica private school.

Then all of a sudden, they look like a winning team

constanly improve

A stand-up-and-take-notice-goal. Kelly O’Hara beats her defender to the inside and karate kicks a cross into the net. Wow!

The US Women’s National Team has slogged through its world cup, scraping out scrappy victories. Their play was lackluster. They looked toothless particularly on attack.

Then whamo! Out of nowhere, they send Germany home with a command performance. Yesterday the women of red, white and blue picked their opponents’ pockets. Yes there were two bad ref calls that favored the U.S., but they were by far the superior team.

kelly o hara goal against germany

The Star from Stanford. Kelly O’Hara celebrates the goal that iced the victory.

Pundits credit a formation change-up from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3. But also each player was nearly perfect. Gone were the individual blunders of prior games.

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

They had been improving game after game. And when they needed it most against their toughest opponent, they conjured mastery of the game. They won 2-0.

This is a key to life: Keep improving. Keep working to do better. Keep eliminating errors.