Small Giants: Greenville Christian’s Rise to the Top

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 9:06 PM CDT
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GREENVILLE, Miss. (WLBT) - Greenville Christian was formed in 1969. The original purpose of the religion-based school was to continue segregation.

Today, 253 students from preschool to 12th grade fill the halls. Nestled in the Delta, their all-Black football team emerged as a powerhouse.

In 2020, many schools across the state cancelled their fall football seasons. This left many athletes without a place to play. At the same time, Greenville Christian was having a hard time finding players to fill their roster.

The pandemic ended up being a blessing in disguise.

“As school districts, sort of, around the Delta, you know, one by one decided not to play football, here we are with a lot of really talented athletes and a good football team,” said Head Coach Jon Reed McLendon. “There was a real sense when things started to happen that, ‘Hey, you know, we’re about to maybe get into something really special.’”

In 2020, the Saints went 11-1, losing only to Tri-County Academy. They went on to win the MAIS 3A state championship for the first time since 1982.

This season, Greenville Christian defeated Jackson Prep, MRA, and Jackson Academy. They’re only the second team since 1999 to beat all 3 in the same year. However, their biggest victory this year was over the defending MHSAA class 6A state champions, Oak Grove.

Playing these big schools opened the Saints’ eyes to some of the things that they lack.

“A lot of these teams have super nice facilities and they’re really fortunate to have that stuff,” said McLendon. “For the meantime, you know, we can use that as a little chip on our shoulder. Say, ‘Hey, you know, we don’t have very much but what we do have is a pretty good football program. We’re going to go in here and compete and we’re going to use that as some motivation.’”

It’s hard to determine what’s next for the Saints. Continuing to schedule top programs is a start. However, McLendon is focused on the future of his players.

“We’ve got to continue being our best. We want to be the best,” added McLendon. “We don’t want to take our foot off the gas. Also, for each one of these guys that are going to have opportunities to the next level and, you know, you can’t afford to let up because maybe you cost yourself an opportunity that you can’t afford to lose.”

“I love each and every one of these guys,” said starting quarterback DJ Smith. “I just hope we continue to work, continue to get better like we been doing and keep it rolling ‘til the end.”

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