Students of Lighthouse Christian Academy practice at Penmar Park on Rose Avenue on Wednesday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

PENMAR PARK — The Lighthouse Christian Academy football team needed a change after failing to win a single game last season. That change will come in the form of the team’s new head coach, Justin Kayne.

Although Kayne, who recently graduated from Lighthouse before heading off to play as a defensive back for the Santa Monica College Corsairs, is picking up the coaching reins off the back of a disappointing season for the Saints, the first-year coach is excited to bring a tradition of excellence back to their eight-man football program.

“We’ve got a great group of guys and we are all hopeful for a successful season,” Kayne said enthusiastically. “We started practicing in the summer with weightlifting and skill fundamentals. We’ve also been working all summer long training, working on conditioning and getting the boys in shape.”

The young coach’s biggest hurdle is the difficulty he finds in trying to field a quality team. Enrollment at Lighthouse Christian Academy is only 52 students at the high school level and a typical eight-man team includes at least 12 players, so gathering enough players to fill the roster can prove to be tricky.

Due to the smaller field and the omission of three players at any given time, the tempo of the eight-man game is noticeably faster-paced with fewer players; and scores tend to be higher.

The Saints first opponent will be long-time rival Southlands Christian School, located in Walnut, Calif.

This is the third straight season Lighthouse will play the Southlands Eagles, but it will be their fourth game in three years. Last season, Lighthouse lost their season opener to Southlands, 26-20, but the Saints beat the Eagles twice in the 2008 season — including a 54-14 win in the playoffs.

Southlands Head Coach Frank Gerdine said his team always looks forward to playing the Saints and is glad to be opening the season against Lighthouse for the second season in a row.

“Coach Kayne accepting the head coaching responsibilities should be a welcome change for the Lighthouse team,” Gerdine said. “They are always a tough matchup and we are really looking forward to our opening game. I wish Lighthouse Academy and their new head coach the best of luck.”

Lighthouse plays in the eight-man Coastal League, along with four other schools: Rolling Hills Prep, Price, Ribet Academy and Hope Centre high schools.

In 2005, the Saints were California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division VA eight-man football runners-up, when Kayne was a freshman.

The game is scheduled for today at 3 p.m. in Walnut.

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