New Lancaster Christian Academy football coach Rocky Peeler will have a former University of Tennessee football player and an ex-college quarterback coach on his coaching staff this fall.
However, the school has chosen to remain out of competition in the state high school athletic association's playoffs. LCA principal Kevin O'Dea confirmed the small Smyrna private school has no plans on joining the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.
Former Lancaster Christian football coach Chad Watson said the school's decision to not join the TSSAA is a key reason that he left the school to take a defensive coordinator's position at Clarksville Academy.
"We kind of talked about (joining) and it was hinted, but it was something we kept brushing back to the back burner," said Watson, who added that his wife had recently been accepted to a master's program at Austin Peay which also played a part in his decision to leave. "When I finally got the answer, that helped make my decision."
Watson resigned after one season at Lancaster Christian. Watson led LCA to a 5-7 season in his only year, including a five-game win streak to end the season. Lancaster Christian defeated Crown Athletics of Georgia in the NACA championship 48-17 in November in the Knights' season finale.
Peeler joined the school in December and was on tap to be Watson's defensive coordinator this fall prior to Watson's resignation. Peeler played with Watson at Austin Peay. Peeler was a former All-OVC second team defensive lineman, while Watson played on the Governors' offensive line.
Peeler will be joined on his coaching staff by former UT wide receiver Cory Fleming, a Stratford graduate and former Dallas Cowboy and Nashville Kat, and Alex Robins, a former quarterbacks coach at Middle Tennessee State University and most recently Blackman High.
"We are excited to have coach Rocky Peeler as our new head coach of the Lancaster Christian Academy Knights," O'Dea said in a statement. "Coach Peeler is a dynamite Christian and will lead our players into another great season."
O'Dea said the school's decision to not join the TSSAA was based on the organization's transfer rules that force an athlete to sit out a year if it does not have a bona fide change of residence.
"LCA has no formal plans to be a part of TSSAA at this point in time," O'Dea said in the statement. "Many great athletes who have gone on to colleges with full and partial scholarships have attended LCA during high school and would have not had the opportunity to play under TSSAA rules for private schools."
LCA had two football players -- Tyler Drown and Demetrius Rogers -- sign with colleges this past year. Drown, a transfer from Macon County, signed with Bethel. Rogers, a Hunters Lane transfer, signed with Tusculum.
Lancaster Christian joined the TSSAA briefly in 2009 as a Division II-A school, but abruptly left it before it played a game as a member.
LCA is allowed to play TSSAA members in the regular season. However, the school cannot participate in the TSSAA's playoffs or state championship in the postseason. As a non-TSSAA school, it does not have to adhere to its policies. Among them, the school can welcome transfers to the school and allow them to play immediately without applying for a hardship.
Like Monday, that was the primary reason given in 2009 when LCA chose to quickly exit the association.
"When players come to our school, they would have to sit out a year," O'Dea said in a phone interview. "We're a small school. If we're TSSAA, they can't hit the field immediately, but would have to pay our tuition. One thing that attracts students here is that they don't have to sit out.
"We're not looking to be something huge. We're a small school of about 150 high school students. Some may want to play basketball or football, but maybe they don't even make their team at their other high school. They may want to come here and start playing. They don't want to sit out."
O'Dea said not being a TSSAA member hasn't hampered the school from finding games with other Christian schools that are not TSSAA members. However, it has at times made it difficult to find football games since many non-members play 8-man football. Currently the team has scheduled to play statewide powers Alcoa, Gordonsville and South Pittsburg this season.
Most non-TSSAA Christian schools play 8-man football instead of 11-man.
"We might be the flagship of another conference for 11-man football some day," O'Dea said.