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Gwinn football decision correct

September 26, 2011
The Mining Journal

No one likes to see a team shut down during a season, for any reason.

It hurts the players and coaches, the team's fans and the community in which the squad is located.

Gwinn Area Community Schools officials no doubt thought long and hard before ending the Gwinn High School varsity football team's season after just four games of a nine-game campaign.

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But it had to be done.

A Modeltowners team that began with 18 players - just four seniors - listed on its opening-game roster had been reduced to 12 or fewer for last Saturday's scheduled Mid-Peninsula Conference contest against visiting Negaunee.

Injuries and what GHS Athletic Director Duane VanDrese called "natural attrition" led to the team's player loss.

In an 11-man game of football, you can't play effectively with so few players. The Modeltowners of first-year head coach Bill Harrison had lost their first four games this season by a combined score of 189-18.

This season has not been the only one in which the GHS varsity team has struggled, either. Its last winning season was 2000 when the Modeltowners went 5-4. In 10 years afterward, it went 20-70.

Winning often spawns student interest in participation. Negaunee High School has a successful football program and hasn't had any problems getting enough players to don a football uniform.

Miners varsity head coach Paul Jacobson gives credit for that to the grid coaches in the district's lower levels and the involvement of the community in athletics in general.

Ishpeming High School has qualified for postseason playoff action nine straight years. Head coach Jeff Olson has generally been able to keep his roster numbers in the mid-20's, but it has been a struggle at times.

"It's a work ethic issue," he said last week. "Kids don't want to put the time in (for football) anymore. It's a major commitment and hard work. I'm always talking to a kid here and there about playing."

Westwood High School first-year head coach and longtime assistant Jon Beckman says player participation in football is "cyclical." The Patriots have had as few as 14-15 players for a season, but have 32 on the varsity this year.

"But our JV team has 17," he said. "Everything goes in cycles."

There is no doubt some GHS football fans would have liked to see some players brought up from the Modeltowners' junior varsity squad to make it possible for the varsity season to continue.

After all, there are adequate numbers there and the team was 3-0 at last look. But asking sophomores to compete against seniors is a risky proposition.

Not only do the young players lack experience, but more often than not, they're not as big or strong as the older gridders. That invites serious injury.

For the GHS players left on this year's team who have worked hard since preseason drills opened in August and wanted to finish out the season, it's too bad they had to hang up their equipment. It's probably painful for all of them.

But district officials made the right decision in ending the season prematurely.

Here's hoping there are enough players next season for the Modeltowners to not only field a varsity team, but find some success.

No one wants to see a repeat of this season.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.



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