Competition is heating up for Christian Fellowship basketball and athletics.

Starting with the upcoming 2021-22 basketball season, the Eagles and Lady Eagles will return to Fourth District play.

While belonging to the Kentucky Christian Athletic Conference, CFS has played a mix of First Region and Christian school teams over the last few seasons. But thanks to an increase in athletes at the high school and middle school levels, the Eagles and Lady Eagles are primed to make a splash in First Region play for the first time since the 2004-05 season.

“Both the boys’ and girls’ teams have worked extremely hard over the past several years to bring the programs to a competitive level,” Eagles head coach Tyler Ryan said. “We’ve had solid numbers on both sides down through middle school. We are also establishing fundamental and competitive programs at the lower levels to keep the interest, opportunity, and involvement consistent.

“My goal for these programs is to act as a feeder program for the Middle and High School teams to keep us competitive.”

In addition to rising interest being a key factor in CFS’s return, Ryan said the chance to compete in tournament play in the postseason was a big selling point.

“More than anything, the kids want the opportunity to experience postseason play. We feel that the programs are as ready as they will ever be to join district play,” he said.

Since the 2005-06 season, the Eagles and Lady Eagles have only had the opportunity to participate in the KCAC midseason tournament against schools relative to their own attendance of roughly 300 students.

The plan to move back into Fourth District play has been in the works for years now, and following stellar seasons for both the boys and girls teams last season, 2021-22 just seemed like the right time.

“I would have loved to make the move a few years ago but the administration halted me knowing the problems we’ve had in the past,” Lady Eagles head coach Trevor Jackson said. “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about being competitive. The success and competitiveness we’ve had in recent years has made this the right time to make the jump.”

The Eagles were 19-9 last year and return three of the team’s top four scorers from 2020-21 in Andrew Dunning (15.8 ppg), Luke Grigg (13.5 ppg) and Isaac Hovekamp (10.8 ppg).

Christian Fellowship’s girls finished 13-12 with their entire roster back for this season, including Gracie Howard. A sophomore, Howard surpassed 1,000 career points last season and averaged over 22 points per game. Teammate Lillian Burnett averaged a double-double with 16 points and 10.4 boards per game.

Although making the move will be much harder than making the decision, Jackson said he and his team have high hopes that they can establish themselves as a team not to be overlooked in the coming years.

“My hope and expectation is to be competitive and have other teams respect us,” Jackson said. “I started with softball and then basketball. My goal was to stop being other teams’ senior night or homecoming game. Now, for the program and the girls, I want other teams to respect us and take us seriously when we’re on their schedule.

“Hopefully, we can learn, grow and maybe surprise a few people as we set ourselves up for a good season and future.”

The Eagles and Lady Eagles open the 2021-22 season hosting Dawson Springs on Nov. 30. They will play their first Fourth District games on Dec. 10 against Calloway County.