It's a whole new ball game for New Life Academy football with a new name and cooperative team.
The Eagles will fly under the football banner of the Academy Force this fall.
Academy Force will be comprised of players from New Life Academy, St. Croix Prep Academy, Twin Cities Academy, Liberty Classical Academy and Mounds Park Academy.
The decision to reconfigure the program was necessary for New Life to have a viable football team going forward, said Eagles athletic director Kevin Kleiner.
Academy Force will have new uniforms, using base gray tones accented by the school colors of New Life Academy, St. Croix Prep and Mounds Park Academy.
There are also several new teams on the schedule and in the Twin City Gold subdistrict, as well. This fall the team will face new opponents Mounds Westonka, Minneapolis Southwest, Minneapolis Patrick Henry and St. Paul Highland Park, as well as returning foes Providence Academy, SMB and Fridley, after a one-year absence.
Two home games for the Force will be at East Ridge and one will be played at Woodbury High School this season. The team's homecoming will be played at Northwestern University in St. Paul Oct. 6.
Last season the Eagles went 5-3 in the regular season, then topped Hill-Murray in the section playoffs before losing to South St. Paul in the section finals.
"Last year we went to one half away from state," senior running back Matt Teigland said. "We got really close, but came up short. This year we want to correct that and get to state. The whole season is just to prepare for that."
Five players from New Life Academy will be on this year's team; seniors Drew Wynia, Jackson Wallerick, Zeke Countryman, junior Cooper Falteisek and sophomore Brandon Brim. But many more that competed with the Eagles last season are also on the squad, and they will be supplemented by players from other schools.
Despite the influx of players from new schools, the team's chemistry is excellent, said head coach Gene Teigland, now in his fourth season leading the program.
"The cool thing is we're already kind of used to it," Teigland said. "In fact, we've had good chemistry every year I've been here. But the chemistry this year is even better. From nine through 12 all the way through the guys are really enjoying other. I think they're excited about the new guys who came here. We want to enjoy playing football, but we want to win. And they see these guys as helping us win."
The offense will have a familiar look for New Life Academy football fans, however, as senior running backs Sam Bissen and Matt Teigland both return after leading the Eagles last season.
"Strength-wise we have a really great corps of running backs and receivers coming back," Teigland said. "We have our last two leading rushers in Sam Bissen and Matt Teigland. We've got our tight end, a three-year starter (Wynia), so we're excited about him. We've got receivers that are coming back. We moved another guy to receiver that has a lot of experience. We feel great in those positions."
The Force will be breaking in an entirely new offensive line, however, with five new starters on the line.
"Defensively I feel like we could have one of our best defensive teams we've had," Teigland said. "We've had some pretty good ones the last couple years. We've got some players from TCA and Mounds Park Academy that are really going to be helpful for us and then we have our core of our defensive guys back."
"I think our run defense is going to be really strong," said Bissen, who will line up at middle linebacker in addition to running back.
The Force will open the season vs. SMB on Friday, Sept. 1, at the Blake School, Hopkins campus.