Ben Herring and Leon Jones don’t have many extracurricular options at The Wilson Academy, a small private school on Covington Highway in Decatur. In fact, the only school-based activity is basketball.
So when the pair found out about a football league for high school students who either are home-schooled or attend a school without a football program, they jumped at the opportunity.
“I wanted to be in more activities and try a new sport,” Jones said. “I don’t want to sit around. I like to be active.”
Jones and Herring are two of five DeKalb County students who play for the East Atlanta Mustangs in the Glory For Christ Football League (formerly the Georgia Football League). The eight-team league plays standard, 11-man tackle football complete with a 10-game regular-season schedule plus playoffs.
One of Herring’s teachers came across the Mustangs’ Web site and mentioned it to his class.
The Mustangs are based in Rockdale County and practice at Rockdale Baptist Church off Sigman Road, not far from the DeKalb County line.
“We want kids to know the opportunity is there,” said first-year Mustangs’ coach Joe Blount. “Sometimes parents think they have to give up sports or other extracurricular activities to go to a private school. But we want to let the kids know the chance is there to play football.”
The Mustangs started six years ago when the league formed. The other teams in the league are located in suburban Atlanta and as far away as Carrollton and Dalton. The Mustangs went 5-5 last season and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Blount is looking to grow the football program and has started to recruit more in DeKalb County.
“We had about 25 kids show up for spring practice,” Blount said.” It’s
the most we’ve ever had for spring. We’re trying to build the program and get about 35-40 kids out for the fall. Spring is a good opportunity to get everyone excited about the season.”
The league is not off the map to college recruiters. A former Mustangs player from Covington – John Bodin – is a redshirt sophomore on a football scholarship at the University of Georgia.
Jones is a two-sport athlete who is in his second year playing football. A senior who starts on both offense and defense for the Mustangs, Jones has played basketball for several years and is a member of the GT Stars AAU basketball program.
“I like to hit, and I like the excitement of the game,” Jones said. “A big play can happen at any time.”
Jones said he has made the adjustment to football fairly smoothly and also plays running back and wide receiver for the Mustangs.
“I didn’t really know the plays or what I needed to do when I first started,” Jones said. “Just getting used to the plays and seeing where I was supposed to be on offense and defense was the main thing.”
Unlike high schools that participate in the Georgia High School Association, the Mustangs do not have structured workouts during the summer. Both Herring and Jones have prepared for the season by working out on their own and trying to stay in shape.
Herring, a senior, has been playing organized football since he was 13 and is in his third year with the Mustangs. He starts at linebacker and also plays running back. Playing for the Mustangs has allowed Herring to continue with his favorite sport.
“I love to play football and I was interested even before I found out about the Mustangs,” Herring said. “I probably would have tried to find another place to play.”
Blount is hopeful he can find other players in the coming years with similar stories and continue to help student-athletes find a place to play football if it’s not available to them at their school.
For more information about the East Atlanta Mustangs, call (770) 788-8534 or visit www.georgiafootballleague.com