Florida Christian Institute is moving into new territory this fall. Coach Brent Burnside consulted with school administration and decided to move down from 11-man football to six-man.
They joined the Florida Christian Association of Private & Parochial Schools (FCAPPS) to play in the Southern Conference. In doing so, they renew a rivalry with Cape Coral Christian, which joined the six-man conference last year.
The FCAPPS has 38 teams throughout the state. The Southern Conference lists nine schools this year with the addition of FCI. The top four advance to the state playoffs in November.
"Last year, we had 14 kids on our 11-man squad. Almost all of them had to play both sides of the field (offense and defense), with only a few as substitutes," Burnside explained. "When you have only one quarterback and he goes down to an injury, then what do you do?
"Of those 14 players, eight graduated this spring. That means only six kids are back, and we weren't sure yet how many new players will be trying out this fall."
Along with the game change, there is uncertainty at FCI about enrollment and where the school is located. Last year, FCI was located on Pine Island Road in Cape Coral. It was considering moving the campus to Lehigh Acres.
A third difficulty is FCI didn't start classes until Aug. 22. Those factors mean the Eagles must hustle to get ready for their first game on Sept. 2 at home against Island Christian.
They only had nine days of practice to prepare for the season opener.
Burnside looks at the upside of all this. His own experience as a player in arena football will be put to good use.
"The six-man game is very similar to arena football," he said.
His first real exposure to six-man was watching a spring game in May, noting what he will tell his squad when camp started.
"It won't take as much to introduce it," he said. "We'll have to show the nuances of the games. We still have to teach blocking and tackling, but the emphasis is on conditioning."
When asked for a key to six-man, Burnside said, "Get an athletic quarterback, one that can do everything."
He thinks the quarterback should be more of a runner than a thrower.
"The entire squad has to get into great cardiovascular shape," Burnside said.
Sept. 2 - vs. Island Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 - vs. Oasis, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 - at Miami Christian, 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 - vs. Golden Rule, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 - vs. Donahue Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 - at Cape Coral Christian, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 - vs. Miami Westwood Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 - at Canterbury, 7 p.m.
Nov. 5 - at Nicea Academy, 7;30 p.m.
Head coach: Brent Burnside, ('10) third year (10-7)
Affiliations: Florida Christian Association of Private & Parochial Schools (FCAPPS)
Home: 2-0 Away: 1-3
FCI 12, Jacksonville Potters House Christian 2
vs. Jacksonville Shekinah Christian Academy, ccd.
FCI 12, Premier 6
Arlington Country Day 14, FCI 8
vs. Pompano Beach Premier Academy, ccd.
at Bradenton Prep, ccd.
West Oaks 40, FCI 0
Oakland Park South Florida Prep 6, FCI 0