BRADFORD — Bradford High School will not field a varsity football team this year. Bradford Schools Superintendent Joe Hurst said the school had to withdraw from playing at the varsity level due to the number of kids on the team and their inexperience.
“Less than half, there was 15 kids, had any kind of high school football experience and right around half of those kids had any kind of football experience,” Hurst said.
He also said the program had as many as 17 kids participate. A whole chain of events led the school to not participate in the 2022 football season.
Hurst said it was apparent in late July during a mandatory parents meeting they would have trouble fielding a team. Not many kids showed up with their parents to the meeting.
They also lost their coach, Marcus Calvert, around the same time. Hurst said he was set to become a teacher here, but left after seeing the roster issue he would have to deal with.
“He withdrew and said he wasn’t going to coach with us and wouldn’t be able to be a teacher either. That was another spin on things and because of that, we lost more kids,” Hurst said.
There was still a core group of kids who wanted to play football. Hurst said the kids went out and recruited some of their friends to join the program. Ryan Hudelson became the new coach to lead the program and help guide this group through this whole process.
There still weren’t enough kids and experience to have a full varsity experience. On Wednesday August 3, the school officially told the Western Ohio Athletic Conference they would not have a varsity season.
Hurst said they have kept the conference informed throughout the whole process. Bradford has been communicating with the conference since the parent meeting. It wasn’t a complete surprise to the other teams in the conference when Bradford cancelled their varsity season.
Hurst said the school gave their WOAC colleagues permission to seek out a new opponent. Some schools had a new opponent ready to go when the time came. Other schools already moved on and replaced Bradford on their schedule before Wednesday’s meeting.
Teams also have an option to have a bye week. For Tri-Village, they didn’t want a bye week. Head Coach Matthew Hopkins said they wanted to schedule a team that would challenge them before the playoffs begin.
“We kicked around the idea, just for a split second, of having a bye. Nobody wanted to do that. Our kids didn’t want to do that, us as a staff and a school didn’t want to do that. We wanted to make sure these guys got 10 games in,” Hopkins said.
The school will look into many different options for a football season. Hurst said they are looking into an eight-on-eight season, junior varsity season and a scrimmage team. He also said Bradford’s Athletic Director Chloe Shell is working tirelessly with the OHSAA to see what they can do at each option.
Hurst said he is not sure what direction they will go in, but hopes that in the next two weeks they will have a good idea of where the program is headed.
Bradford was in the same position awhile back when they were in the CCC. Back then, they had to cancel their varsity season and sit out two years before being reinstated. Hurst said there is not a structure rule like that for the WOAC. He also said there is a penalty committee that would review situations like this, but he hasn’t been informed if they are and doesn’t think they will.
Bradford has been in constant communication with the conference since the start and other schools in the conference do face this problem with other sports. There is a feeling the WOAC and it’s members won’t punish Bradford for not being able to field a varsity football team.
“I hope that everybody understands that this is not the position we want to be in. It’s definitely not where we want to be. Hopefully there is some sympathy with that. From what I heard from the other superintendents, I think that’s the case,” Hurst said.
The only problem Bradford will face if the program returns to the varsity level next year is having a full 10-game schedule. The other WOAC schools could be forced into a two-year series with their new opponent. Hurst thinks the WOAC would accept them back next year even without a full 10-game schedule.
“If next year they have to play that same opponent instead of Bradford, we’ll survive and do what we need to. We’ll take our lumps and will make something work,” Hurst said.
The main goal of the football program this season is to have the team gain as much experience as they can and learn the game. Hurst said there is only one senior on the team and very few have high school experience. The kids are still excited to have some form of football this year.
“We’ve got kids that want to save this for our community and for our school,” Hurst said. ”To see that and see there’s that kind of support for it, I believe that even those experienced kids are going to jump in and be the leaders and the mentors on the team to be able push the less experienced kids to be better.”
The school has also helped teach the parents about what their kid needs for football and what to expect. Hurst said they had a meeting with the parents on Thursday, Aug 4 about what equipment the kids need, what practices will be like and the expectations that come with football.
There is some hope right now for a bigger turnout next season. Hurst said there are 10 kids playing eighth grade football that could help grow the numbers for next year.
He also said they will continue to work with the WOAC this year and throughout the year to bring varsity football back next year. Bradford will make the most out of this year to help lay a foundation for a varsity program in the near future.
Contact Daily Advocate Sports Editor Drew Terhall at [email protected]