Whittell football program axed
Whittell High School was forced to drop its football program on Tuesday because of injuries and an overall lack of players.
The loss of the program on the eve of the season created “a lot of disappointment” among players and staff, said Whittell Athletic Director Brian Mehrer.
“We canceled it (Tuesday) morning because we were down to 13 players with three freshmen and morally I couldn’t stick them in there and worry about the injuries,” Mehrer said. “Even from the start of the school year in preseason we were only running with 18 or 19 kids. We had a couple of eligibility issues where we lost a couple. Then we had a scrimmage with Reed and North Valleys’ junior varsity programs last Thursday and we lost three kids to injuries just that night. That just put us to the point where we couldn’t continue.”
Nick Samaras, entering his first year as head varsity coach, said he feels the worst for the players who were looking forward to competing in the Northern Nevada 2A League this year.
“We had 13 kids and a few others who worked hard all summer,” Samaras said. “I thought we had this thing on an upswing. It’s not that we didn’t want to play football. We did. But one more injury and that’s where we would have been.”
There is the hope of the school administration and coaching staff that this will just be a one-year absence from the league.
Junior center Mike Flanagan was practicing with the Whittell soccer team Tuesday afternoon, still able to enjoy a warm-up on the field where football used to be played. He said losing the football team won’t be easy to get past.
“Everyone is really upset about it,” Flanagan said. “I still haven’t gotten over it myself. I’m just trying to get out here and pass the time. I’m coming out for conditioning so I can get better for (football) next year. I needed something to do instead of being at my house.”
Flanagan said the players understand why the program had to be canceled.
“We were having a shortage of kids and during summer we had practices where only 10 kids came out,” he said. “We’ve been having a lot of problems getting the numbers out there. It became a safety issue for us because they can’t expect us to go play 48 minutes at full speed the whole time and if we can’t play full speed, there is more of a chance of us getting hurt.”
Samaras said the signs had been there. He refused to blame one person, but admitted turnover of coaches contributed.
“We had a great bunch of kids,” he said. “We scrimmaged a couple of 4A junior varsity teams with what we had. They tried hard and played well and responded to us, so I was very happy with that. That’s what makes it so tough for the kids and the staff that we can’t continue.”
Mehrer said student-athletes have been offered the opportunity to transfer to other schools before the season begins. The NIAA is offering a one-time waiver to play for Douglas or South Tahoe high schools.
Mehrer doesn’t believe that losing one season of football means a permanent end to the program at Whittell.
“The only stipulation the NIAA puts on us is that we would have to show we can have a team (next season) by this spring,” he said. “We are planning to start a weight-training program that we will have the football players in and maybe some spring ball.
Although he doesn’t teach at the school, Samaras said he’ll stick around to see how the situation pans out.