For the past three seasons, the Augusta Eagles football program has been focused on building a team in its infancy. The upcoming season marks the start of new chapter for the program started by Tim Alba. What began as an 8-man football program will now transition to 11-man football and join the Glory For Christ football league based out of Atlanta. For Alba, the athletic director of the program, and head coach Samuel Lilly the move for the 2013 season is a sign of things to come in the future.

“Now that we’re in a league and have moved to 11-man football, it just feels more like football, which will be good for the program and the potential for it to grow, Lilly said after the teams second practice in pads Friday. “Plus, now we will be playing at Lions field, which is an improvement in terms of facilities.

The Eagles’ program is designed to give home-school students and students who attend alternative schools or schools without football teams to participate in athletics.

Alba and Lilly both know the season will be a challenge. The Eagles will start off the year with an exhibition against Fox Creek. The schedule doesn’t get much easier for the team once they begin regular season play. The Eagles play each of the leagues top five teams from the 2012 season including the GFC champion East Atlanta Mustangs. In the season finale they will play the other CSRA representative in the league, Augusta Prep.

“I feel a little bit like David and Goliath, we’ve got a lot of big, well-managed and put together programs on the schedule, and we’re just kind of coming into that this year, Alba said. “The team has a lot to prove. I think if they work hard and have passion, they’ll be all right. If they put themselves into this, I think it will be a good season.”

The coaching staff has high hopes for senior quarterback Robert Hayes. Hayes is one of the leaders of the program and has been making his way around the nation this summer for camps and combines.

“He’s one of our older and more experience players, so he’ll be a key to any type of success,” Lilly said.

Success on the field is even more important for the Eagles who are still facing the challenges of increasing the number of players in the program. One of Alba’s goals is to get more students from the three magnet schools in Richmond County and any private school in the area, including Victory Christian in North Augusta.

“What I would like to see eventually is for the team to become large enough to have a junior varsity and varsity, Alba said. “I would love to also see us eventually move into our own facilities, but that’s much further down the road.”

Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken in 2012 with a degree in communications.