Posted: 4:40 pm Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Berean Christian, Oxbridge Academy football join new independent league 

By Matt Porter

The success of the independent Southeastern Football Conference seems to have inspired other small-school football programs to start their own league.

Berean Christian School and Oxbridge Academy, two West Palm Beach private schools, will this fall play in the newly created Gulf Atlantic Football Conference. It will allow those programs to play for a conference championship, which they would not be able to do as independent programs.

“We wanted similar-type competition and a complete schedule. We felt this league gave us that,” Oxbridge Athletic Director Craig Sponsky said. “It’s all part of building a program.”

Sponsky said his program, which enters its first varsity season, still plans to join an FHSAA district at the beginning of the next two-year realignment cycle (2015-16).

The GAFC is a 10-team independent league spearheaded by Naples-Community head coach Damian Jones, who started reaching out to schools in January.

The league is split up into two divisions, named Atlantic and Gulf. Berean and Oxbridge will play in the Atlantic Division along with three Miami schools, Hillel, Northwest Christian and Palmer Trinity.

The Gulf Division includes Bradenton-St. Stephens Episcopal, Cape Coral-Oasis Charter, Naples-Community and two Fort Myers schools, Canterbury and Gateway Charter.

The teams will play divisional opponents and non-conference games until Nov. 8, when the top two seeds in the Atlantic will play the top two seeds in the Gulf in a 1-versus-2 format. The winners will play Nov. 15 in a GAFC Championship game.

The other teams will play the same seed (third place vs. third place, etc.) in cross-divisional games on Nov. 8.

The Southeastern Football Conference, which includes Benjamin, John Carroll, Pope John Paul II and St. Andrew’s, is entering its second year of competition as an FHSAA independent conference. Those schools broke away from their FHSAA districts to create a level playing field, they said.