It’s a cold Thursday evening and the Indianapolis Crimson Knights are taking as many reps as possible under the lights at the Trinity Lutheran High School football field.

Many players can be heard mumbling that this is the coldest practice the team has experienced this season as they prepare for their final practice of the year.

It’s crunch time for the primarily home-schooled team that features seven players from Trinity Lutheran. The Crimson Knights are set to travel to Panama City Beach, Florida, next week for a chance to win the National Home School Association National Championship.

The tournament runs from Nov. 16 to 19 and features 16 home schooling-based teams across the country.

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The Crimson Knights recently defeated SWCHA Saints of Wisconsin to gain a spot in the tournament and will face Georgia Force on Nov. 17.

The team is made up of mostly home-school students and is based in Greenwood and Trinity Lutheran.

Trinity students have played on the team the past two seasons. They host practices twice a week at Trinity and two in Greenwood each week.

Head coach Kevin Wilson said the Trinity Lutheran players have made a huge impact on the team and have taken leadership roles.

“Three of our team captains are Trinity players,” he said. “The whole Trinity relationship has been fantastic and all seven players contribute in a huge way.”

Bryce Lister, Matt McCay and Sam Marksberry are Trinity students that serve as captains on the team.

Lister said he is looking forward to competing alongside his teammates in the tournament.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’m hoping we do well and I’m just ready to have some fun.”

Lister, a junior, also took time to reflect on how well he and his teammates performed and how the coaches helped the team prepare throughout the season.

“This season has been phenomenal, it’s a great group of guys and I think we have all played to the best of our abilities,” he said. “When it all comes down to it, I want to thank our coach for everything he has done because he has gotten us ready for this season.”

Marksberry plays receiver and defensive back on the team.

He said he was ready to see some action on the field in a tournament atmosphere.

“I’m excited about it and I can’t wait to go to the tournament,” he said, shivering as he put on the rest of his gear before practice. “I want to work on our pass coverages because a lot of teams throw the ball down there,” he said.

Marksberry said playing for the Crimson Knights has been uplifting since his school lost its football program.

“It’s like it used to be when we had our program,” he said. “At first it was rough and then we got over it and now it’s almost the same because we practice and have a team.”

Trinity has also helped the team by having its facilities available for the team’s practices and games.

Wilson said that has changed things for them. The team did not even have a practice field or practice equipment.

“We practiced in a park,” he recalled. “Once we had our relationship with Trinity, we were able to practice on the fields, have practice fields, have blocking sleds and have weight rooms and things like that that we haven’t had before.”

Wilson said he has seen positive results since the team joined forces with the school.

“I can tell a difference when you look at the progression our players and how much better they’ve gotten,” he said.

The team played in the tournament last year, falling in the second round to a team from Louisiana.

The Crimson Knights finished its year against the No. 8 ranked team in the nation, and Wilson said that level of competition helps the team prepare for the best in the tournament.

“I think this team has every chance because our defense is so good,” Wilson said. “Our offense is good, but with our defensive ability we could absolutely come home with a championship.”

This year Lister and the team hope to finish the tournament with a different result.

“I want us to be the national champions,” he said.

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Jordan Richart is a correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.