There were instant signs that big things were in store for Horizon Christian Academy athletics in the 2015-16 school year.
A football program that didn’t exist three years ago started the fall 6-1 on the way to going 9-3 and reaching the GICAA Division II state championship. Five players were named to the GICAA all-state team.
But things kept getting better from there.
Boys basketball went undefeated on its state title run. Baseball won a region title. Boys soccer won one too, and went to the state semifinals. Boys tennis kept the region titles rolling while finishing runner-up in the state. Girls tennis had a doubles pair reach the state finals.
Add the construction of new athletic facilities underway, and it all has Horizon and athletic director Charles Wiggins feeling ambitious about the future.
FCN: What was this school year like as a whole for Horizon athletics?
Wiggins: “In general, it’s about having athletes, and it’s about having structure for the athletes. I try to run the programs as if it was a Class 6A school. We are surrounded by them. When a student comes here to visit and wants to be in athletics, I don’t want that athlete to feel like he’s coming down. Even though we’re not in GHSA, I want the athlete like he or she can contribute in a big way.
“It’s all about the kids and the parents of the school. When they win a state championship, I want them to wear that ring as prideful as any other school. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing in the Mickey Mouse league or if you’re playing with the New York Yankees. It’s a game, and you play it to the best of your ability with whoever you play.
“It’s about having excellence at the forefront and ensuring that you’ve got the program on point and the coaches adhere to the program.”
FCN: I hear athletic directors say all the time that a football team’s season can set the tone for how the school year goes overall. With the season you had, did it feel like that had a lingering impact?
Wiggins: “Well, I changed things a little. Most of our boys are three-sport athletes. So when we started our football weightlifting, boys basketball coach Damon Taylor infused all of the basketball athletes with the football team. So really it was the boys athletic program working out in the weight room. It wasn’t a basketball versus football. It was Horizon Christian Academy athletics.”
FCN: So what’s the construction you’ve got going?
Wiggins: “It’s always been in the plans for us to do an athletic complex. We’re in the first phase of that. The original plans were for it to be a baseball, football and soccer complex. We switched it around now. We have 40 acres behind our main campus. So we’ve just decided this phase to just do a baseball and soccer complex in the front.”
FCN: Do you imagine they’ll be ready for next baseball and soccer season?
Wiggins: “Baseball, no. Soccer, maybe.”
FCN: What are you hoping those facilities can do for Horizon Christian?
Wiggins: “You know the movie, Field of Dreams, where they say, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ I’m not one of those people who say that. I say, ‘Lord built it, and the Lord already knows the people who are coming.’ I just don’t know who they are. He’s got his hand in everything we do here. I’m just here as an instrument.”
FCN: In the GICAA, what are your competitors’ facilities usually like?
Wiggins: “It depends. Most of the smallest schools, the counties let them play in public parks. Some have their own facilities. But like us, they’re building, they’re taking their time. But most of them have good facilities. It was just like that in GISA. GHSA has a little bit different standards. But when I played I played in the backyard in tobacco fields. It doesn’t matter to me. Just get out there and play.”
FCN: So what do you hope Horizon athletics can accomplish next season?
Wiggins: “I personally think that we now, with last year and with the volleyball season prior – and there were some things that happened with volleyball, we lost some girls. But the state championship coach is back for volleyball, Kierra Danztler. She wants to build the program back to where it was.
“Now, with all the programs, we’ve set the tone. All of our programs are expected to win the region. And it’s expected that they be in the state finals. All of our programs. With the way we’re working things out in the weight room – girls are going to be next in the weight room as soon as we get the numbers up – and we’re going to be Warriors athletics, and we’re going to compete for Christ by bringing in championships.”
FCN: The state legislature passed a bill that helped you and other GICAA schools with scheduling schools in the GHSA and GISA, who you were not previously able to schedule games against. That seemed like a good moment for the GICAA’s stature as an athletic organization in the state.
Wiggins: “Todd Hannon, who started the GICAA, felt like it wasn’t fair. And it’s not fair. I think we all have sense enough who to schedule. I’m not going to schedule Lambert. I’m not. Maybe one day we’ll be big enough – we’re going to go to the GHSA one year, whenever the Lord says it – if we got strong enough and I felt like we could compete, I would like to have a game with Pinecrest Academy instead of having to drive all the way to Macon or McDonough to play a non-region game.
“Hannon took it to the legislature, and they agreed. Now GHSA by law has to let any school play any other school. But naturally you’ve got to be smart about it. All we want is to have the opportunity to play a game. But it’s a good rule. I applaud it.”
FCN: How soon do you see it impacting your scheduling?
Wiggins: “It’s not yet, but it will. Like our basketball team, we couldn’t even scrimmage Pinecrest. But now we could. I might ask [Pinecrest athletic director] Chris Kane to do a little scrimmage. And we might even play a game in the future, which we couldn’t have done in the past.”
FCN: What other things are on your radar?
Wiggins: “I think one thing is homeschoolers. Our league allows homeschoolers to play, if you’re in a certain division. Like our basketball team and volleyball team can’t play homeschoolers, but I do play homeschoolers in football.
“We’re probably going to get away from using homeschoolers, but I think the leagues should consider to have a homeschool-separate division. Maybe the homeschool leagues, like the Glory For Christ League, need to change some of their rules a little bit, because people in our league think they cheat. Most of the time, the kids just want to play.”