Because of a lack of potential upperclassmen players, Coast Union High has canceled its varsity football schedule for the upcoming season.
Last week, one junior and one senior showed up for the start of practice. Soon afterward, the school felt it had no other option than to make sure the underclassmen — nearly 25 of them — got to play at the junior varsity level this year.
The school’s present enrollment, which has declined over the past couple years, totals about 225, with the junior class accounting only for slightly more than 20 boys.
“It’s too bad,” Coast Union athletic director Bill Clough said, “but it’s nobody’s fault.”
The Broncos were originally scheduled to open the varsity season at home against Mission Prep on Sept. 2. The Royals have since been able to schedule an away game against Avenal to take its place.
“We had to be fair to the teams we were scheduled to play, in order to let them know far enough in advance to schedule another game,” Clough said.
The move is a reversal of the situation from two years ago, when the Broncos were unable to field a JV team.
Coast Union has, however, already lined up seven of nine games at the JV level on the schedule this year.
“It’s not the end of the world. We’ll get through it,” Clough said. “We’ll still be playing football in Cambria on Friday nights.”
While Clough said that naturally, there’s some disappointment in the community, most have been understanding since the decision was announced, and the kids getting ready to play the JV season are excited just the same.
First-year Broncos coach Chuck Garcia, who was hired after former coach Ron Garcia stepped down, saw the development coming based on the low numbers, which went unchanged for months.
“We waited as long as we could to give (possible juniors and seniors) an opportunity to come out,” Garcia said.
Over the past few years, Coast Union’s players have often had to play on both sides of the ball for the entire game. Last year, for instance, the varsity squad ended the season with a 13-man roster.
“We’ve had some kids do yeoman’s duty,” Clough said.
Perhaps in the future, given the school’s declining enrollment, the program might conceivably look at moving to the 8-man level, Clough said, although doing so “isn’t an easy decision or an easy transition.”
“You make a schedule a year or two in advance and you’ve got league affiliations,” Clough said. “You can’t just say, ‘We’re going in a different direction (all of a sudden and have a switch the following season).’ ”
Doing so could also be complicated because JV squads can be more scarce and infrequent at the 8-man level, which could mean that, hypothetically, Coast Union could have too big of a roster core to be a good fit there.
Garcia said that his goal for coming years is to have at least 12 players from each grade come out for the program, an influx that would mean a shift toward the 8-man level wouldn’t be necessary.
Garcia, an assistant coach at Allan Hancock College for the past six years, said his staff is stressing to the current players that whatever the future holds in store, they’ll be the foundation for it.
“They’re going to be a very good frosh-soph. team,” Garcia said. “We’re going to give them the full treatment, and they deserve that; they’re working hard and we feel like we’re going to be very competitive.”