In an effort to grow their football programs and maintain the health and well-being of their players, St. Andrew's Episcopal School and St. Stephen's Episcopal School will combine their respective football programs for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC) has approved the combined team to compete in the 3A division for the 2018 season.
“The SPC looks forward to continuing our football relationship with our Austin-based schools through this combined team during the next two-year football cycle,” said Bob Windham, SPC Commissioner. “We felt this action is best for our conference, as well as for St. Andrew's and St. Stephen's.”
Although they are traditionally athletic rivals, both St. Andrew's and St. Stephen's share common missions and values as Episcopal schools, ensuring a successful athletic partnership.
“Both schools share a common appreciation for educating the whole student—mind, body and spirit,” said St. Stephen's Head of School Chris Gunnin. “We both share a fierce attachment to our Episcopal identities and value our participation in the SPC with other schools across Texas and Oklahoma. As we searched for ways to offer a football program that reflects our shared values, aligning with St. Andrew's just made sense.”
“We are committed to a safe, sustainable football program,” added St. Andrew’s Head of School Sean Murphy. “We want to provide a high quality, competitive experience for all our student-athletes. We believe this partnership will benefit both programs and holistically develop our players from their early high school years through to graduation. St. Stephen’s is a natural fit with St. Andrew’s, and we look forward to planning our next season together.”
The combined football program will compete for an SPC championship in the 3A division that includes Casady, Cistercian, Fort Worth Country Day, John Cooper, Oakridge and Trinity Valley, among others.
“In football, for us to compete against the other schools in the 3A division of SPC, we felt it was necessary to have the physical program numbers associated with other schools in our conference,” said St. Stephen's Athletic Director Jon McCain. “This partnership enables students that attend both schools a chance to compete for a championship in an appropriate sized program for our level of participation. Not only do we feel that we are providing a safer environment for our players, but we look forward to sharing some unique high school athletic moments with our friendly rival across town.”
St. Andrew's Head Football Coach Taylor Stewart has been named the head coach of the combined team. Stewart coached football at St. Stephens's for seven years before his move to St. Andrew's, where he has coached for the past eight years. “Given Coach Stewart’s experience at both schools and his excellent football mind, he was a natural fit to lead the combined programs,” said St. Andrew’s Athletics Director Jeff McCrary.
“We appreciate the SPC granting us this opportunity, and we look forward to this alliance with St. Stephen’s,” McCrary added. “This partnership ensures the continuation of a safe and positive experience for all our football players. Our goal is to enable our schools to field full junior varsity and varsity football teams. As we look to build and strengthen our football program at St. Andrew’s, a critical component is to develop our younger student-athletes in preparation for varsity football.”
This collaboration will not be a first for St. Andrew's and St. Stephen's, as both schools have leveraged their athletic rivalry in the past to support local and national charities. Their volleyball programs have hosted a “Play for the Cure” game to raise money and awareness for National Foundation for Cancer Research. Their “Episcobowl” football games have produced food donations for El Buen Samaritano, a local nonprofit serving the Central Austin community. The two schools look forward to enhancing their service-learning projects together with this new partnership in athletics.