Their school cancelled varsity football, but some Nicolet students are still getting the opportunity to play

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- This high school football team doesn't play in a league, but in many ways, they're in a league of their own. Just ask a couple of teammates who thought their prep careers were over when their school dropped varsity football.

"Freshman through senior, we have 28 kids, and that's the kind of team that we typically have. We work some miracles with God's help to play as good a football as we do," Coach Larry Galeener said.

The SWCHA Saints are part of a Christian home-school sports organization in southwestern Wisconsin -- and Galeener is their coach.

The team is ranked 23rd in the country, and third in the Midwest among home-school teams. Not bad for a group of young men without a home field. The team pays to host games at Carroll University and Whitnall High School.

It seems only fitting that the Saints' practice field is behind a church in New Berlin.

"If you would walk out on this practice field, you find ruts all over the place. You don't have a very long distance to throw a ball. I've said if we throw a pass more than 10 yards, the guy who's receiving it is going downhill to try and catch the ball," Galeener said.

Fielding a home-school team is an uphill battle. Some of Galeener's players travel as long as one hour, one way just to make practice! There's no budget. Galeener doesn't make a dime, and his assistants are usually parent volunteers -- but there are special dividends.

"I love the kids. I just love them. They're just incredible kids. They come from incredible families. I view what I'm doing as part of my Christian mission," Galeener said.

Not all of the kids on the Saints team is home-schooled.

"If there's a school that's too small to have a football team and there's two or three guys that want to play football, they're welcome to play on our team," Galeener said.

That was welcome news for running back Jamalle Williams -- a Nicolet High School student/athlete who was thrown for a loss when the Knights canceled football just before the start of the season.

"You just practice hours and hours just to get a play right, or just to get everything perfect, and to get ready for the season just to come out and not have one is just sad," Williams said.

"I was just trying to play wherever I could, really. I asked different schools if I could play, and they all said no. I really didn't have any options," Isaah Radix said.

Like Williams, Radix is a Nicolet student who was blindsided when the Knights dropped varsity football. The Saints are allowing Williams and Radix the opportunity to continue to enjoy the game they love.

"I'm glad I get a second chance to come out here with the Saints. They accept me here as a player and I'm glad. It's like a new family," Williams said.

"It was huge. They really just took me and the field of Nicolet kids and we felt welcome right away," Radix said.

"I think we're a pretty welcoming team. I mean, numbers-wise it's nice to have more players and they're a big contribution to the team, so we welcome them very nicely," Saints senior John Leskinen said.

But there's a bigger picture as to why the Saints embraced the former Nicolet players.

"It is amazing to see the kinds of relationships that develop between kids that live so far apart and come together for this one common cause," Galeener said.

The common cause is winning. Because they're a home-school team, the Saints aren't allowed to compete in the WIAA playoffs. However, they've more than held their own against those teams during the regular season.

"A lot of people who we play for the first time, they say 'ah, they're just home-schoolers. We can take 'em.' I don't think they think that afterwards," Saints junior Luke Schoenwetter said.

The Saints, who are currently 3-0, hope to put together a playoff field featuring home-school teams from across the Midwest.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the SWCHA Saints.