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Northwest Christian coach Jim Nendel leads his players in prayer on the first day of practice. Nendel says the Crusaders are “still learning about the culture of football.” (Tyler Tjomsland)

Northwest Christian starts from scratch with football team

In case you didn’t know, the clues were there in Colbert first-thing on Aug. 21, the first day of high school football turnouts for the 2013 season.

The water station was in pristine condition and the rope net for agility drills shined in the morning sun – a unique shade of yellow that only lasts until cleated feet run through.

Northwest Christian is taking up football for the first time this fall – it’s so new that the school’s website doesn’t list football as a high school sport.

 “Yes, we’re pretty new,” first-year Northwest Christian football coach Jim Nendel laughed. “We bought what we needed and we borrowed what we could. Our uniforms are brand new. Our practice field was the soccer field and we’re making that work.”

Whitworth University donated football equipment that it was no longer using to help the program get off the ground, but Nendel said that parents are shouldering a big part of the financial burden of startup.

With any startup effort, building a knowledge base is vital – and it’s an effort that has to start from scratch. What other teams take for granted is still being learned by a dedicated group of Crusaders.

“We’re still learning about the culture of football,” Nendel said. “We’re having to learn all of the basics. We’ve had a great trainer volunteer to come in and help us with our conditioning program and help us tailor it for football instead of for basketball and baseball.”

An experienced coach with international credentials, Nendel was hired in March and has worked steadily to prepare for the inaugural season, including a trip to southern Idaho and the Boise State Football Camp for some intensive training.

“At first our guys were a little overwhelmed, but by the end they were getting things figured out,” he said. “Colfax was there and (coach) Mike Morgan was really supportive and worked with us and that really helped.”

Northwest Christian has a little football experience to draw from. Several players played at Greater Spokane League schools before transferring to the Colbert campus. Others played in Pop Warner leagues growing up. Athleticism is there; football acumen may take a while. The Crusaders open the season against Liberty at Deer Park on Sept. 13.

“Part of our problem is that we’re coming into a very tough league,” Nendel said. “We play Colfax in our second game and we play Lind-Ritzville/Sprague, the defending state champs, in our fourth game.

“We’re trying to learn and have fun all at the same time. We know we’re going to take our lumps from better teams as we begin this program and I think our upperclassmen understand that and have a great attitude about it, helping to build the program for the kids that come along later.”