CROZET – Andrew Kirkman has been part of the Grace Christian football team for a little over two months, joining just two days before the opening game.
Yet, it would have been hard to tell that he was a newcomer to this team. As tears flowed down the big guy’s face and he hugged all five of his fellow seniors following Saturday’s 28-3 win over Rappahannock County, it seemed as though he’d been a Warrior his entire high school career.
“I just love the team I’m with,” said Kirkman. “I’m really happy … they welcomed me with open arms, invited me out on the field, basically did everything they could for me. I’m happy I got to spend my senior year with them.”
Grace Christian honored its six seniors — Kirkman, Spencer Eckert, Noah Ranck, Ricky Yeomans, Leland Cale and Gage Frazier — at halftime of Saturday’s game.
It marked the final home — Grace Christian played home games at Western Albemarle High School — for the Warriors this season.
“It’s meant growing as a family,” Yeomans said of this past season. “And having teammates that, no matter what you do, will support you.”
This was the third year the Staunton private school fielded a football team. The first year it played a jayvee schedule then played a split jayvee-varsity schedule last season. This year, the Warriors have played all varsity games and have done extremely well, posting a 6-1 record with its final game scheduled for Friday night at Quantico High School.
“The difference is the leadership from these seniors,” said Grace Christian coach Chris Haskins. “Three years ago we didn’t have seniors. Now we have seniors. So to have six of them to lead the team from the beginning in July all the way to now is pretty impressive.”
Last week, in a 24-22 win over Hargrave Military Academy, the Warriors looked sluggish at halftime. Kirkman stood up at the break and addressed his team, trying to get them fired up. It worked.
“That’s how big of an addition he’s been for our school,” said Haskins.
Eckert said it’s been nice to see the team grow closer over the three years as well as improve its play on the field. Ranck agreed.
“It’s been encouraging,” said Ranck. “I want to leave a team for [future Grace Christian students] to be able to play football. A lot of us wanted to play football and this was our first chance.”
Eckert, Ranck and Yeomans played all three years, while Leland Cale played the past two. Kirkman and Frazier joined the team this season.
Frazier, the team’s quarterback, was 7-of-19 for 105 yards and an interception Saturday.
“Everyone works together and has each other’s back,” said Frazier. “I’ve never met a more welcoming and loving group of guys. I’m just honored to have a chance to play with them.”
Junior Thomas Musselman led the way on the ground Saturday with 102 yards rushing, plus he added eight tackles to lead the defense.
Kirkman had 101 all-purpose yards, including a 55-yard punt return for a score and a 1-yard touchdown run. Junior Austin Mayo added a 15-yard scoring run while Yeomans got in the end zone from the 5 in the fourth quarter. Junior kicker Eli Marcellus added four extra points.
“It’s just been a great experience to play my last year of football with these great guys,” said Cale. “They’re brothers. They’re family to me. I wouldn’t have wanted to play my last game with anyone else.”
GC — Kirkman 55 punt return (Marcellus kick)
GC — Mayo 15 run (Marcellus kick)
GC — Kirkman 1 run (Marcellus kick)
GC — Yeomans 5 run (Marcellus kick)
RC — Massie 30 field goal