Down to 13 athletes, players vote to disband team: JV still playing
For the first time in decades, Healdsburg High School will not play a full varsity football season, following a majority vote of players on Monday.
The historic vote came in an emergency team meeting when school officials, coaches and players gathered after learning that two more players had quit the team, leaving the varsity roster with a record low of 13 athletes.
“We were down to 15 varsity players in our last game on Friday and since then two more chose not to continue,” HHS Principal Bill Halliday reported by phone.
“This situation isn’t something any high school principal wants to see, but it is part of a realization that attitudes have changed regarding football — things are different now than they were 10 years ago.”
The varsity season has been in peril since official practices began in early August, when the team had to cancel a scheduled scrimmage against St. Helena when a number of players failed to log the required 10 days of practice leading up to the scrimmage.
The numbers continued to dwindle as Healdsburg opened the 2018 schedule with a lopsided loss to Drake (41-0) and Friday’s 61-0 blowout at the hands of Justin Siena.
“We had 15 players in uniform against Justin Siena and all had to go both ways (play offense and defense),” HHS head coach and Athletic Director Dave Stine said. “At that point I was concerned that we would have enough players left to continue the season.”
The Greyhounds have seen declining numbers in the football program for the last several years, most notably two years ago when the JV season was cancelled due to low numbers.
“I think we’re seeing the result of that now,” Stine said. “Since then a few more kids have transferred out of the area and others have decided not to come out this year.”
The declining number of football players at Healdsburg High School is part of a national trend sweeping the nation, perhaps the result of medical studies showing a correlation between concussion related injuries and the brain condition now known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE.
The condition has been cited in many retired professional athletes that suffered repeated head trauma.
Recently the National Federation of State High School Associations reported that a total of 1,038,179 student/athletes participated in football in 2017, a decline of 21,220 from the previous year. It represents the lowest number of high school football participants since 2004.
JV goes on
Although the varsity team is done for the season, the junior varsity squad continues to thrive, with about 30 athletes listed on the roster. In addition, four varsity players have expressed interest in moving down to play for the JV team.
“I spoke to the (JV) team today and told them ‘you guys are our future,’” Halliday said. “They’re a high energy group with a lot of enthusiasm, many of them came up playing together since Pee Wee football.”
In an effort to return some semblance of normalcy to the football program, Halliday said he planned to contact the remaining visiting schools on the JV schedule to see if they’d be willing to play later in the evening, rather than the usual 5 p.m. start time.
“We’d like to get full student body and fan participation at the JV games as much as possible,” he said. “We also would like to get the school band to play at the games.”
Under head JV coach Shaun Montecino, the Greyhounds have posted a solid 1-1 record, including a 12-7 win over Drake in the season opener on Aug. 17. Healdsburg will visit San Rafael this Friday, Aug. 31 (kickoff time TBD).