TIFTON — Tift County’s homeschool basketball team is lighting up the nets again. CHESS Academy — Christian Home Education and Social Society — has started off the season in fine form, with wins over Georgia Christian and Appling Christian Academy
The Knights and Lady Knights are coached by the Bishoff brothers this year, Jason and Jacob. Jason’s the longtime coach of the boys. This is Jacob’s first season working with the girls.
CHESS got off to a 25-0 start against Appling before winning 62-16.. Seth Bishoff hit one three-pointer, but seeing how the game was going, decided to be more of a teammate. “He’s a senior who likes to develop younger players,” said Jason Bishoff.
Edwin McLoud was the leading scorer for the contest, with 18 points. He’s one of the newcomers to the lineup; the Knights have gotten fresh faces from Fitzgerald and Moultrie this season. “He’s a pure shooter,” said his head coach. Drew Johnson, one of the Moultrians, has been a good outside shooter.
Jonathan Ladson and Seth Bishoff are the only two seniors on the team. Son and dad have seen a lot of growth since Seth started as an eighth grader. Jason Bishoff said the program had only eight players when he took over. Now, they not only have a junior varsity, but varsity and junior varsity girls teams as well.
Will Clark is a junior. Like Seth, he’s very experienced, having played since middle school. Clark has “improved his shot, his passing,” said Bishoff. Another junior, Josh Hall, is very physical.
Ladson, Clark, Hall and Seth Bishoff are usual starters and Jason Bishoff alternates Johnson and Justin Drawdy as the fifth starter. Drawdy is “very, very quick” and “very good at stealing the ball.”
The remainder of the varsity listed for the Appling Christian game were Nick Barfield, Joseph Bazal, Dalton Lyles, Jentezen Norman, Jaxson McHan, Josiah Bishoff and Nathan Shaw.
Clint Hurst coaches the junior varsity boys and Ernest Williams assists with the Knights. Among the talent rising on that squad is Barfield, who Jason Bishoff said he is good under the goal. Another name expected to be a big contributor in the future is Norman.
Jason Bishoff’s other son, Josiah, is on the roster and had a team-leading eight points against Appling Christian, a 27-17 CHESS win. McHan scored seven.
Many of the junior varsity players get time with the varsity roster as well, including McLoud, Lyles, Johnson and Norman. Others with the younger squad are Maddox Brevard, Austin Willis, Nathan Shaw, Cameron Manders, Owen Garren and Nehemiah Tucker.
Jacob Bishoff takes over the girls program at CHESS, which got a strong foundation from its initial head coach, Marty Mullis.
The prospect of coaching his niece, Gabrielle Bishoff, was enough to lure Jacob Bishoff to the Lady Knights and he’s been working on building their skills. “I promised my niece,” he said, adding that he had offers to coach at three different schools.
“They’ve been working hard,” said Jacob Bishoff. One of the biggest things he’s stressed is teamwork. “They gotta depend on each other,” he said.
Early scores have not gone in CHESS’ favor. In the latest outing, Appling Christian defeated the varsity, 46-13. The score against Georgia Christian was similar. He’s not concerned about that at the moment. “It’s about lifelong lessons,” said Jacob Bishoff. They are improving rapidly enough that he expects them to be .500 by season’s end.
“The progression of the team, even from this summer … day and night,” he said.
Impact players for the young campaign include Abby Hall, Emma Jenkins, Helen Maraman, Sara Walker and Gabrielle. Hall has been the leading scorer, Jenkins handles point guard duties. Maraman is good on steals and Walker is aggressive. “She’s a beast,” Bishoff said of Walker.
Some of CHESS’ players are new to the game. He’s even seeing a fire in them.
Others on the roster against Appling were Kaitlyn Burdette, Hannah Johnson, Skyler Brevard, Megan Johnson, Hannah Thomas, Julia Maraman, Lanie Thomas and Olivia Jenkins.
CHESS’ schedule has expanded this season. “I wanted to stretch our guys a little more,” said Jason Bishoff. The Knights defeated Georgia Christian earlier this month, 59-45. There are the usual opponents, Lighthouse Christian, Open Bible and Byne, but the team is also going to Bible Baptist of Statesboro.
The Knights and Lady Knights will continue their schedule Dec. 3 at Open Bible in Valdosta. Their next home game is set for Dec. 6 against Corinth Christian (Fla.).