LA Considering Grid Options
Thirty-nine people attended a public meeting at the Langford Area School on Monday to hear about options for its football program.
The school is facing a numbers problem in the upcoming years that could make it difficult to compete as a nine-man football team on its own. Currently there are just three boys in the freshman class with one of them playing football and four eighth grade boys with two of them playing football.
Langford Area had 24 players on its Class 9B roster this year, including the freshmen and two eighth graders, but 13 of those players are seniors. The new average daily membership (ADM) just came out for football (boys in grades 9-11) and Langford stood at 16 for the upcoming year. That number includes boys who do not participate in the sport.
“Our ADM is about half what it used to be and addresses the situation we’re facing,” said LA Superintendent Monte Nipp. “That’s why it’s time to look to the future and see what some options might be for us to continue to have a strong football program. We feel we have always provided a really good football experience and want to continue that.”
Making a decision for the upcoming year tops the agenda for the Langford Area Board of Education meeting scheduled for Monday.
Normally the state sets football schedules on a two-year cycle, but the upcoming season will be for just a single year so that the state can align with neighboring states and make scheduling easier across state lines. With a deadline to make changes later this month, Nipp said the board is likely looking at making a decision for the 2022-23 season.
Initially Langford Area had indicated interest in six-man football when the state put forth that proposal two years ago. But most schools that were considered six-man prospects have opted to stick with co-ops, and the state proposal is not going anywhere at this point.
“Just three school indicated an interest in six-man football and it seems like co-ops are ruling the day,” said Nipp.
That leaves LA with basically two options – continuing as they are with low numbers or pursuing a co-op with a neighboring school.
“Even when our numbers sort of rebound, we could still be looking at only 14-15 boys that want to participate in football,” noted Nipp. “We would love to have everything continue as it was, but that’s not the world we live in and we have to look at what’s best for our kids in the future.”
Nipp said that Langford Area is one of the smallest schools still fielding a team on its own.
“Other than Bison in the northwest corner of the state, every other school our size and quite a few larger schools are all in co-ops. Football is different from other sports where you can bring up younger players to fill spots. What we’re looking for is to have a good program that starts with junior high and includes a junior varsity program for those not quite ready for the varsity level. That’s what you want to provide a good experience for students.”
Britton-Hecla, Groton Area, and Webster Area have all indicated an interest in sitting down and talking about a potential long-term co-op. Britton-Hecla Board President Nick Fosness said that could include an agreement for all sports.
“We are absolutely open to any and all conversations with Langford Area on a long-term co-op discussion inclusive of all sports, and that has been our status from the getgo,” said Fosness. “I think we’re in a good position to work together for something more long-term. Parents and grandparents may have strong feelings, but the kids just want to play with some measure of success. We just have to find mutual beneficial ground.”
If Langford Area and Britton-Hecla did co-op in football it would move the team to the Class 11B ranks. Groton Area and Webster Area are already playing 11-man football.
If Langford Area decides to play an other year on its own, the school does have the option of requesting a nonconference schedule from the state that would pair the Lions with schools closer in size.
“We would still probably play the Class 9B schools in the Lake Region Conference, but would not play teams like Ipswich or Warner that are much larger than we are,” Nipp explained. “We would not be competing in the Lake Region Conference for football only.”
Nipp said that year would allow the school and community to play an active role in planning for a future co-op agreement.
“If you’re looking at a long-range plan there are things that are important like name recognition, coaches, practices, and games. We would want to form a committee that involved coaches and community members to help plan those things.”
LA football coach Paul Raasch said low numbers have already been a problem.
“There have been games where we only had 11 players on the sidelines, and that makes it very difficult. But the coaching staff is behind what the school board decides.”
Nipp said change is difficult. “Something like this is hard for
“Something like this is hard for any community. But by doing some strategic planning now we can end up with as good or better football program than we could have by ourselves. We’re really talking about merging two communities together, and we need time to meet and to process that. The big thing that came out of the meeting is that we need to look at what’s best for the kids and give them the kind of football experience they deserve.”
“Our ADM is about half what it used to be and addresses the situation we’re facing, That’s why it’s time to look to the future and see what some options might be for us to continue to have a strong football program.”
----LA Superintendent Monte Nipp