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May 22—When King’s Way Christian suspended its high school football program a year ago, the plan was to rebuild it through the middle school program to bring back a junior varsity team by the fall of 2022.

That plan got a fast-forward this spring.

King’s Way Christian will field a varsity football team next fall with the Knights playing an independent schedule, athletic director Arne Kainu said.

“Football is a big part of any school culture,” Kainu said Friday. “And due to increased enrollment at the school plus a lot of interest in football — we’ve got a lot of kids who want to play — we’re excited to be able to bring football back this fall.”

As part of the rebuild of the program, coach Nick Mancillas was brought in last fall to develop a program from the middle school level up. Mancillas will lead the Knights varsity program in the fall.

“My main focus was to create an interest in the younger kids, kind of plant that seed and water the love for football,” Mancillas said. “I just wanted to build a foundation so we had numbers for the future. Things took off a lot faster than most people anticipated. We were able to parlay that excitement into bringing back the varsity program. “

Kainu said the school notified the Trico League of its decision, which caught the league by surprise.

“Those schedules get made in two-year chunks and Kings’ Way was not in those schedules,” Kainu said. “So we’re creating an independent schedule for this fall. That work started on Wednesday, and we have six games confirmed so far.”

Kainu said the Knights are looking to play 1A and 2B teams with openings in their fall schedule.

The independent schedule will allow the Knights to grow and gain experience. Mancillas anticipates having a roster of about 40 players in the fall.

“I’m expecting a younger team,” Mancillas said. “I know with King’s Way doing away with program, some kids went to other schools to play. We’re doing our best to bring them back into the fold here. That being said, we are looking to be younger.”

The school will hold an informational meeting next week in hopes in luring other current King’s Way students to come out for football.

“We’re very excited,” Mancillas said. “Everyone in our coaching staff has bought into our early-on philosophy of growing the program, growing it the right way and growing it for longevity. … And the kids, the excitement is there. They’re hungry They’re readying to get back on the field. And I feel blessed to be able to serve them in that capacity.”