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Schools of Thought: Ending JHS football season the right move

October 1, 2012
By MIKE ZUMMO ( , The Leader Herald

Let there be no confusion about this, the Johnstown High School football program is broken.

It's been that way for a long time and nothing anyone has done in the last half-decade or more has been able to reverse the cycle and push the program out of the doldrums and back toward respectability.

A few weeks ago, due to dwindling numbers and mounting injuries, coach Matt Benton, athletic director James Robare and Superintendent Rob DeLilli canceled the final four games of the regular season for the safety of the remaining players.

Six seniors became player-coaches and the remaining juniors were to rotate in and out of games on the JV level so they can continue to play in an environment more suited to the Sir Bills' state of development.

I saw the Sir Bills play Broadalbin-Perth in the second week of the season. I saw a team that was undersized and overmatched. It was clear this wasn't a team that would be able to compete on the varsity level all season. And after a 6-0 loss to Tamarac on Sept. 14, the schedule wasn't going to get any easier with Glens Falls, Hudson Falls, Schalmont and Schuylerville remaining.

In the last two weeks, both Schalmont and Glens Falls have routed Broadalbin-Perth, which, in turn, pounded the Sir Bills 53-8.

At some point, someone was going to get hurt.


For the Sir Bills to play so many games that they didn't have a chance to win would be pointless. Not only would their bodies have to take the physical punishment of facing opponents who are consistently bigger, faster and stronger, not being competitive all season can take just as large a toll on the team's collective psyche.

While it's unfortunate for the seniors who lost out on the opportunity to play their senior season, this is the best thing for the program. Ask Canajoharie coach Ken Sullivan. About 10 years ago, he found himself in a similar situation, although he and his staff were able to recognize the situation early and decided to cancel the 2003 varsity season in March.

With a strong group of freshmen, they brought the program down to JV for that season and then as sophomores, the group came up to varsity, going 2-7. Sullivan said they weren't quite ready at that point, but he knew his team could at least handle the challenge. Two years later, the Cougars won a division title in the Class C South and the program has been healthy ever since.

Can the same thing happen in Johnstown?

I don't see why not. But I do know this: the older players have to buy into this proposed treatment as much as anyone, even if they were unhappy about dropping to varsity.

Not wanting to drop down is understandable, but this could be the only way for the program to recover. If there aren't enough seniors to allow the Sir Bills to field a varsity team without being in danger of not finishing the season, then it's possible varsity may not come back next year.

For the good of the program, and if they want to play next year, the best thing they can do is see this through.

Everyone's goal - from the administration to the players - should be to bring varsity football back to Johnstown next year, but if the team is going to face another season like this one, it might be better off to make sure it's ready to come back to varsity before it does so. Trying to have another varsity season with a roster dangerously close to the 16-player minimum that could result in a season like this one won't help anyone.

Johnstown football can recover and it can't take too long. The Johnstown Little Football League needs a program to feed, and if varsity football stays dormant or non-competitve for too long, younger athletes will look elsewhere.

Mike Zummo is a sportswriter for The Leader-Herald. We invite your feedback on this or any other sports-related topic. E-mail your opinions or ideas to us at



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