CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Incarnate Word Academy opened in Corpus Christi in 1871.
Over the course of its 151-year history, IWA has never had a football team at the school.
That is until 2022.
“When IWA made the announcement they were going to have a six-man football team, I really felt called to reach out to the athletic director and offer my services,” said Grant Ritchie, the man tasked with leading the first-ever Angels football team.
Ritchie has a lot of experience working multiple positions for multiple local 6-man football teams in the area, like the Corpus Christi Wings and Coastal Christian Homeschool football teams.
Still, the job at IWA jumped out to him.
“This is such a special school, a special place. Our mission is to reflect the teaching of Jesus. So, to bring that to the football field is extremely humbling, and I’m honored to be a part of it,“ he said. “That’s actually one of the core tenants of our program: faith is first.”
A football team is something that’s been wanted for a long time by IWA students.
“This football team has actually been long awaited by most of us here at IWA. We’ve always wanted football, we’ve played it outside of school,” said John Kretsinger, a junior on the squad. “The second I heard we were getting a football team started, I was like, ‘oop, gotta get on that immediately.’”
Krestsinger said it’s an honor to be a part of the inaugural IWA football team.
“It’s kind of a special feeling for us, because we get to be the first ever IWA football team,” he said. “It fills us with a sense of pride.”
Right now, Ritchie and his coaching staff are working on fundamentals.
“I just want to get the kids who have never played football used to the game, used to contact, and really start the program off on the right foot,” Ritchie said.
In fact, many of the kids have never played organized football.
“The team looks rusty, but I think a couple of practices this season, we’ll look better,” said Paul McNiff, a sophomore on the team whose only experience with football is in backyard.
That adds an extra challenge for the coaching staff, but a welcome one.
“A successful first season is everybody stays healthy, and we just really understand how to play the game, really understand the core values we’re bringing to the program,” he said.
“We get to teach these kids the foundations of football, get to teach them the basics,” said offensive coordinator Jordan Harwell. “As a coach, that’s the best thing ever, because we get to teach them how to catch, teach them how to block, teach them how to hold a football.”
Harwell comes to IWA after spending a few seasons as a coach at Carroll High School. He hopes his experience with 11-man football can help the 6-man team.
“It is a little different, but I plan on bringing in some of my 11-man skills to 6-man football,” he said. “We’re going to spread the offense out, run an up-tempo offense, get the ball to our playmakers, and see what happens.”
The Angels will not play any official UIL games in 2022, but will scrimmage nearby schools this year. The players are eager to get playing.
“I’m ready to take out someone on the line,” Kretsinger said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
“Everybody loves competition,” McNiff said. “So, it will be nice to play other people.”