Whittell lets down 15 student-athletes | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell lets down 15 student-athletes

Column by Steve Yingling

Common sense didn’t prevail last week when the Whittell High administration decided to drop the junior varsity football program.

How else can you explain why the school issued the quit-or join-the-varsity ultimatum to 15 players – mostly freshmen – to salvage the fledgling varsity program, which opened practices with as few as eight student athletes?

Whose rights are being served here, anyway? Certainly not the JV players, nor coach John Summers, who can’t be more than a yard from leaving the whole mess to some other unfortunate coach.

The decent and sensible choice would have been to consolidate the varsity and junior varsity players and play at the JV level this season. That way the school could have had nearly 30 players working together.

Some of the seniors may have chosen to give up football, unable to swallow their pride and strengthen the program for the future. But so be it. Their numbers are fewer than the heart of the program that was given its walking papers.

As it is now, there may not be a future for the program. Only two of the 17 JV players elected to step up to the varsity, while the other 15 either quit football altogether or joined local Pop Warner teams.

Will those 15 players be willing to come out next year, knowing full well the school let them down once? I wouldn’t.

Since the JV program’s elimination, Whittell athletic director Larry Reilly has refused to comment on the record about the school’s decision.

Declining football numbers aren’t confined to Whittell High. Other small 3A schools like Lovelock and Hawthorne are experiencing the same problems.

“It’s really hard. They are your future. It probably wasn’t going to be a big year for them anyway because (John’s) looking for when they drop to the 2A, where he can be more competitive,” Hawthorne coach Ted Doramus said.

Doramus has 15 players on varsity and 14 on the JV after reluctantly pulled several players from the JV to fortify the varsity ranks. He regretted doing it, but it was the only way to keep both programs going.

“We have to kind of split them up, which, in a way, weakens both,” he said.

Joe Yanni’s Lovelock Mustangs played most of last season with 16 on varsity and 13 to 14 on JV, and still qualified for the postseason. But Yanni worried from week to week about having enough players.

“We haven’t got to the point where we had to scrap the season or cancel a game, but it’s really tough when there really aren’t enough kids to sub. I’d hate to get to the point where you’d have to forfeit a game,” Yanni said.

Yanni saw Whittell’s problem coming before the opening kickoff of the 1998 regular-season finale at Whittell.

“They only had 17 to 18 kids total last year and they introduced eight or nine seniors before the game. I thought right then they’d be in trouble,” he said.

As it stands, if several injuries occur – and they likely will – Whittell is in jeopardy of not having a football team at all this fall. Fourteen players – many of whom will be asked to remain on the field throughout 48-minute contests – aren’t sufficient to take the physical pounding of the sport. Factor in that two of the 14 are freshmen and the school is endangering some of these kids because they just aren’t ready for the physically mature and experienced players they will confront.

Certainly it would have been embarrassing to let the rest of the state know that you couldn’t field a varsity football team. But just think of the program you’d have next year when Whittell drops down to the more competitive-friendly 2A class?

As it is, you should be embarrassed for forfeiting the season opener Friday night at Battle Mountain? That wouldn’t have happened if the school would have swallowed some pride, stepped on some egos and made the JV program the top priority and the means to a stable and competitive football future.

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