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‘Close-knit’ team has years of ball, missions learning under beltcomment (0)

February 15, 2007

It might appear as if First Baptist Church, Clanton, in Chilton Baptist Association has stacked its eight-member younger Challengers basketball team with players from the local middle school, but coach David Karn flatly denies it.

In fact, he contests that it’s the other way around.

"The starting five has been with me since third grade — I’ve had seven of the eight for at least five years (on the church team)," Karn said of the boys, all but one of whom are now eighth graders. And this year, that dedication paid off as the team won the Younger Challengers championship in the RA/Challenger State Basketball Tournament, held Feb. 2–3 in Clanton.

It’s a special chemistry that exists among boys who have played together and studied missions together that long, Karn said. The boys — including his son Grantland — have hung out together at Karn’s house and practiced a couple of times a week during church basketball season for years, not to mention that some now play on the school team together also.

"It may look like the school is training and furnishing a team for the church, but in this case, one can see that the church has done the training and furnished the school with four good players," said Steve Stephens, RA consultant for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

And Karn said the boys have followed the "stringent requirements about their book work" for Challengers starting each August. He’s seen all but one baptized in the time he’s been teaching them.

"They are a very special, very close-knit group of boys," Karn said.

The strong relationships are a natural outgrowth of a RA basketball program that’s been running continuously since 1969, Stephens said. According to him, the only other church in the state that’s been running the program since it started is Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Montgomery, in Montgomery Baptist Association.

Other winners in the recent tournament were:

- Older Challengers (senior high) — First Baptist Church, Pinson, in Birmingham Baptist Association.

- Crusaders (fourth through sixth grade) — West End Baptist Church, Clanton, in Chilton Association.

Teams involved were from Mobile, Florence, Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Selma, Gadsden and Clanton.

For more information about RA/Challenger basketball, call Stephens at 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 268. (TAB)

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