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Housatonic football to play JV schedule in 2014

POSTED March 17, 2014
BY John Nestor
Twitter: @nestorjdn

Coach Deron Bayer is looking to rebuild the Housatonic football program and that includes playing a JV schedule in 2014.

FALLS VILLAGE - In what was a tough decision the Housatonic/Wamogo football team has decided to play the 2014 season on the jayvee level.

Low numbers in the program, safety concerns for the players and limited experience levels for a number of new players led to the decision. 

“After consulting with the CIAC and the Pequot League, the difficult decision was made to compete at the junior varsity level for the 2014 season,” Housatonic Athletic Director Anne MacNeil said. “We hope this will allow our younger and less experienced players the opportunity to gain confidence and experience with the ultimate goal of returning to the varsity level.”

While not an ideal situation, keeping the program alive and building for the future is seen as the best available option.

“It’s tough, things have definitely been better,” Housatonic coach Deron Bayer said. “I guess I’ve used the word difficult a number of times to describe what is going on but we made a very difficult decision based on what was safest for the kids.”

Safety is always a concern when it comes to football and it became a major concern last season when the Mountaineers faced a major shortage of able bodies. Bayer started the season with 32 players, not a huge team, but still viable. He ended it with a lot, lot less.

“When we got off the bus on Thanksgiving morning for thew Housatonic Bowl we had 14 players,” Bayer said. “And that was everyone in the program, freshmen through seniors. People saw that and it was a bit of an eye opener for them as far as what we were dealing with.”

The Mountaineers went 0-11 last season with five losses coming by forfeit because of injuries and low numbers. Housy last took the field as a varsity program against Avon on Oct. 19 and lost 41-6. The Mountaineers forfeited their next game to Lewis Mills and did not play a varsity game again until Thanksgiving morning against annual rival Gilbert/Northwestern.

Housatonic managed to play sub-varsity games in the weeks it forfeited varsity games and will be looking to do the same in the fall of 2014 while trying to rebuild the program.

“We don’t have a schedule finalized but we are in the process of contacting school and will play as many games as we can,” Bayer said. “There are many teams in the same boat as us with low numbers and teams have not been able to play JV. From year to year its different, what happens frequently is that a school fields a varsity team first and then do what they can on the JV and freshman level when numbers are down.”

Housatonic has gone winless the last two seasons and last won on Oct. 15 2011 when it defeated Granby, 39-8 to improve to 4-0 that season. That's was the recent high point for the Mountaineers but the losses are not the reason for the decision to take the program to the jayvee level.

“We are looking to restart the program, this is certainly not being done because we aren't winning and things are tough,” Bayer said. 

The first item on the program checklist is to get players. Bayer said nearly 30 kids at Housatonic have signed up and after he and some players visited Wamogo to drum up interest, another 25 expressed interest.

That’s all well and good but there is a long way to go from saying football sounds great in March while sitting in a classroom or the cafeteria and actually buckling up the chinstrap and putting in the work. Even if Bayer gets numbers he won’t get experience right away.

“There seems to be interest at the schools but a huge number of these kids would be first-year players, and not first year to Housatonic, but first year to the sport of football,” Bayer said.

The difficult decision not only means the Mountaineers will play a sub-varsity schedule but that it will also have to forego some annual traditions, chief among them the annual Thanksgiving Day battle in the Berkshire Bowl against Gilbert/Northwestern.

“It looks like the Berkshire Bowl for next season will be on hiatus until Housatonic returns to a varsity schedule,” Gilbert AD Pat Cooke said. “We will be playing Avon in the last game of next season. The actual date of that game has yet to be determined.”

What will also new determined down the road is when the Mountaineers next take the field as a varsity program.

“We are hoping for this to be a one-year thing but we will have to re-access and go from there,” Bayer said. “It has been stressful, but basically we have to look at things as what would be best for the program, really that is the only place the decision would come from.”

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