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The Lafayette Ledger

The Lafayette Ledger

Liberty Christian and the Hypocrisy of the VHSL

Virginia High School League for Private Schools? Does Liberty Christian deserve to compete against public schools?
With thousands in attendance, Liberty Christian beat Lafayette High School to secure its first VHSL football state title.

“Money doesn’t buy championships”, first coined by opposing fans of the New York Yankees, is a prevalent phrase used in sports. The debate that teams spending absurd amounts of money will win more than the average spending team has been around for years. Historically, this has only been a debate in professional sports. However, with the rise of NIL in college athletics, money spent on athletes has now reached the world of student-athletes. Many people question, whether this is just limited to college athletics, or is it now the case for high schools across the country?

The Virginia High School League (VHSL) is the governing organization for “interscholastic athletic competition among public schools” in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VHSL is responsible for sponsoring state championships in 27 different sports and academic activities. Each school district falls within a geographical region and schools are divided into a class, depending on enrollment.  According to VHSL, Class 3 hosts schools with 736-1060 students. While they claim to host competitions for “Public Schools”, the recent football Class 3 State Championship win by Liberty Christian Academy, a private school, has caused many to take another look at the way the VHSL is run.

Liberty Christian Academy, a private school out of Lynchburg, Virginia, opened its doors for the first time in 1967-only a few years after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. LCA was founded by former pastor and political figure Jerry Falwell sr. Although Fallwell committed many good deeds through the church, his views on racial discrimination were no secret. As the founder of the Moral Majority, one of the biggest political lobbies for evangelical Christians in Virginia, he called the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “a terrible violation of human and private property rights”. He also questioned the intentions of Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., saying, “[I question] the sincerity and intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have Left-Wing associations”. As influential as he was politically, his most lasting impact was on education. Along with Liberty Christian Academy, he also cofounded Liberty University in 1971. Liberty is now one of the world’s largest Christian universities. Liberty Christian Academy now serves as a feeder school to the university. LCA is a one-minute walk from Liberty University and offers dual enrollment opportunities with the university. Both schools are also very connected socially and up until 2023 LCA played their home football games at Williams Stadium, the home of Liberty University Football.

On December 8th, Liberty Christian met Lafayette High School in the Class 3 VHSL Football State Championship. LCA was the heavy favorite, featuring multiple 4-star athletes in Gideon Davidson and Easton Ware. Davidson finished the year with almost 200 yards per game and was crowned the 3rd best running back in the country for the 2025 class, per 247 Sports. Ware, a 6’5″ Offensive lineman, was the key to LCA’s offense all year. Most of the team’s plays revolved around Ware and Davidson, allowing the team to rack up almost 4,000 rushing yards for the season.

Lafayette High School was seen as the underdog, having suffered two losses earlier in the season to St. Christopher’s School and Warhill High School. However, the Rams gained momentum later in the season with three decisive wins in the Regional Playoffs, followed by a 17-14 win in the State Semi-Final game against Brentsville. Although undersized, the Rams relied on speed and deception to beat opponents with their signature Wing-T offense. Lineman Peter Cook and quarterback Hayden Oleksy were also two key reasons for the Ram’s success. Cook, a 5’9 defensive lineman, emerged as one of the best defensive players in the state this season. He totaled 14 sacks in the regular season, which was the 3rd most in all of VHSL. Oleksy emerged to be one of the best leaders on the team. He would also contribute on both sides of the ball at Safety later in the season.

Liberty Christian started the game off with a quick score after a Lafayette fumble, putting LCA up 7-0. The rest of the half was all LCA, with the score at 21-0 before the break. Against all odds, Lafayette was able to mount a comeback in the second half, scoring 2 touchdowns to bring it to a 7-point game with only a few minutes left in the 4th quarter. This was not enough however, as LCA iced the game with a final touchdown on 3rd and long to put the game out of reach. Liberty Christian then made history as the first ever private school to win the VHSL State Championship in football.

I interviewed Hayden Oleksy asking if Lafayette’s season was still a success despite the championship loss.

“Absolutely”, he said, “Only 12 teams make it to states and we were one of those teams,” he said.

Lafayette High School is no stranger to losing to private schools in State Championships. Two years ago, Lafayette Swimming came in second in the State Championships to Maggie walker, a Governor’s School out of Richmond Virginia. Later in 2022, Lafayette Baseball was knocked out in the state semifinals 11-1 to the usual culprit, LCA, who later went on to win the State Championship.

I asked Lafyette Senior, Braden Lee, who was on both Lafayette swim and baseball, how he felt about competing with private schools.

“I would say mainly frustrated”, he says, “Our teams spend most of the year working as hard as we can with the people who actually live by our school and then we get near our goal, and we have to compete against teams with unfair advantages. For instance, in baseball, LCA had 10 D1 commits (only 9 can even play at once) and we had oneD1 kid and one D3, so clearly that is an unfair advantage. Maggie Walker, in running and swimming, both times had several kids that they recruited who helped them win. So, it is very frustrating that several times our teams have gotten extremely close to a state title only to lose to a team that can recruit and offer scholarships.”

In the 100 years of the VHSL’s existence, no private school has ever competed against public schools for a State Championship. However, due to a federal lawsuit in 2014, this way of competition now ceases to exist. Liberty Christian had been a football dynasty in VISAA, a private school division, before 2014. Nevertheless, they sued VHSL to be able to compete against public schools across all sports. For a school that costs nearly $9,000 dollars in tuition to attend, the lawsuit included travel expenses and loss of revenue. Eventually, the VHSL settled and officially allowed them membership and to be able to compete. Joining the VHSL meant they promised to abide by the rules and regulations of the league, including rules against recruiting and admission based on locality and residency of students. Recently, LCA has come under fire due to coaches speaking out and accusing them of not following the guidelines set. Matt Cross, a Rockingham County School Board member posted on Facebook, “If the VHSL is going to allow them to cheat, we should ALL refuse to play them. The VHSL is allowing our athletes to be cheated, by allowing LCA to not follow the same rules we all have to abide by! There’s no place for recruiting in High School sports. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”. While the VHSL firmly states that LCA is in no violation of any rules or regulations set forth, VHSL executive director Billy Haun stated, “We are not the NCAA. I don’t have an investigative team. I don’t have a group of people who go out into the schools. We trust our member schools to do what they are supposed to do.” Star offensive lineman for LCA, Easton Ware, played middle school football at Hornsby Middle School in Williamsburg. Hornsby Middle, which opened in 2010, is minutes away from Lafayette and is considered an LHS feeder school.

I asked Lafayette lineman Peter Cook how he felt about private school’s inclusion in VHSL and if he felt cheated that they had to compete against Liberty Christian Academy.

“To a degree yes. I mean they beat us fair and square, but the idea that a private school that has the ability to offer scholarships to players they wish to come play for them, the high level of Liberty Christian connections at the executive level of VHSL, and the fact that the state championship was essentially a home game for them all feel unfair,” he said, “I think every year we’re striving for a state chip. There’s a lot to I’m proud of this year both individually and as a team, but on the whole, it’s hard to say it’s a success when you don’t come home with a ring. That’s the job you’re there to do. Bring it home.”

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