One of Kansas’ top high school football programs doesn’t even have a base campus.
The players don’t have a workout facility or fieldhouse. They don’t walk through the halls wearing their jerseys on Friday with a glamor beaming off of them. And in some ways, that has all helped.
The Wichita Homeschool Warriors entered Week 6 undefeated, outscoring opponents by 232 points. They have players from Yates Center, Pratt, El Dorado and Ponca City, Okla. They all meet up in Wichita four times a week to play 8-man football.
And in 2018 coach Bill Turner and the Warriors are shattering the paradigm surrounding homeschool.
“There’s an ignorance toward homeschool because people just don’t know,” Turner said. “The social aspect, that’s not an issue. That’s just a stigma.”
The Warriors practice off West and Taft streets three times a week. The families of the players pay a flat rate for the season to cover equipment, referee costs and other expenses. They have a home field, cheerleaders and fans who travel just like any other school.
The only difference is that they don’t wake up and walk through the front doors of Wichita Northwest or Collegiate. They go downstairs.
Every homeschool parent must register their home through the board of education. Offensive coordinator Trey Hall said he named his T&T Homeschool.
“Trey and Tiffany,” he said.
Hall coached at Sunrise Christian Academy before he joined the Warriors. He said it was a calling from God, and that was several families’ reasoning on the move to the home.
Hall said having experienced both, there is little difference between the two. People will say the social interaction goes down when kids enter the homeschool system, Hall said, but through the Warriors, one of the hardest problems is actually keeping kids at home after class.
“After Friday night football games, we open up our house for the team to come over and hang out,” he said. “It’s just a fun time. We’ve got to work harder to make those lasting relationships with kids, but that’s the biggest difference because we don’t see them every day.”
Even some of the people interviewed for this story believed homeschooled kids were something they weren’t before getting to know them. Hall said he has “got some athletes,” at his disposal.
Wichita Homeschool athletic director Jeff Masterson has been in his position for three years. He homeschooled his kids and said he does what he does to help give the thousands of homeschool high school students around the Wichita area and beyond an opportunity they wouldn’t normally have.
Wichita Homeschool is accredited through the Kansas State High School Activities Association as an honorary member. The Warriors can — and do — compete against Kansas public schools. They just cannot play in the postseason.
The Warriors offer 15 sports, which is more than some public schools. They competed at Wichita South’s vaunted Titan Classic this fall and will play in basketball tournaments this winter.
The football team plays in the Kansas Christian Athletic Conference against small, mostly private schools in Kansas and the surrounding states. Among other teams, this season they have played the Manhattan Eagles, the only other homeschool team in the state. And Friday they won 88-66 against Sunrise Christian Academy, one of their biggest rivals.
The Warriors play an exciting brand of football. They spread it out with only three linemen. They throw it around the yard and use a lot of eye candy motion that throws the defenses off.
Although it’s fun to watch, they are built on grit and backed on the many misnomers and labels society has handed down on homeschooled students. Senior receiver Marshall Masterson said that ignites them.
“We’re just like all the other kids,” he said. “We do the same things, wear the same clothes, have the same attitude. We are the same as them.”
Jordan Cale, a junior running back from Ponca City, Okla., said he found the Warriors on Google. This is his first year of football after suffering from vertigo for the first part of his life.
“It shows how passionate we are to play,” he said.
William Day, the Warriors’ starting junior quarterback, is out of El Dorado and is playing his first season as a high school quarterback. Cale said he has the strongest arm in the league.
Day has thrown for 1,398 yards and 22 touchdowns through six games. He said the transition wasn’t easy.
“At first, I was really down on myself,” Day said. “In junior high they asked if I wanted to be quarterback. I was like, ‘Sure.’ I was a tight end in 11-man, and in junior high, I thought, ‘I wanna be the coolest kid and go out and throw the ball.’ But it was a lot harder than I thought. I was just lucky to have great mentors.”
Cale and Day are only a couple of the Warriors’ stories. But they all play with an edge. Their motors are unending, and their passion is clear.
“Almost every game we go into, we’re the underdog even in an undefeated season, just prove ourselves year after year,” Marshall Masterson said. “It’s really good motivation to just go and dominate.”
That commitment trickles down to the coaches, too. Turner, Hall and the rest of the Warriors coaches are unpaid volunteers. They all have day jobs but do it because many of them have raised homeschooled kids and want to share the opportunity.
And that means a lot to the players.
“Just like us, it shows passion,” Day said. “They’re putting in so much effort, so much time into us, maybe we can give just a little bit back to them in a win.”
A lot of the Warriors split time between private schools and in-home classes. To be eligible to play for Wichita Homeschool, players must take at least 50 percent of their classes at home.
Day splits time between home and Victory Christian in El Dorado, a school that doesn’t offer a football team. He said when he started being homeschooled, he didn’t know exactly what to think.
“When I started, I thought all those things, like, ‘Oh, homeschool kids,’ ” he said. “But these are some of the coolest kids I know. They’re just so fun and easy to talk to. They have great character because their parents get to be with them every single day, every single second.”
The paradigm is constantly swirling around the team. Coach Turner’s wife, Amber Turner, started home-schooling her kids when the family moved back to Wichita after spending 12 years in Corpus Christi, Texas.
She said she knows what people think.
“We’ve been at ballgames and just overheard some of the things some parents say,” she said. “Yeah, you have some weird and strange ones, but you do in public school, too. Our days are filled just like any other kid.
Turner said it’s clear to see why the Warriors are undefeated. They aren’t just playing because it’s fun.
“There is no glory in being homeschooled, so it gives them a little extra fight,” she said.
Although they won’t get to yell and celebrate in a home locker room this year or hold up a state championship trophy, the Warriors are just taking advantage of the hand they have been dealt.
And they are thankful for it.
“It’s wonderful,” Masterson said. “I don’t know any other homeschoolers who have this opportunity unless they’re part of this organization. I’m just so fortunate.”