FARMER CITY — With the number of players dwindling, particularly among upperclassmen, Blue Ridge High School will have a junior varsity football team only next season.
Principal John Lawrence and athletic director Eric Decker proposed the move after learning only seven of next year’s juniors and seniors had committed to play football. The Blue Ridge school board approved the proposal.
Lawrence said the hope is to return to a varsity schedule in 2014.
“We just don’t think we have enough (upperclassmen) that we could field a competitive varsity team,” Lawrence said. “Going against some of the competition we face in our conference (Heart of Illinois), we wouldn’t be competitive.”
Lawrence said Blue Ridge had about 35 players total and a sizeable senior class last fall. Still, the Knights finished 0-9 for the fifth time in the past six seasons. Blue Ridge has not made the playoffs since 2001.
Options were discussed at a town meeting in November. One was to possibly form a co-op with another school, but the idea lacked support. Lawrence said since that time 20 to 25 students have expressed interest in playing, but most will be underclassmen next fall.
“What we’re looking at is our freshmen now will be sophomores and we’re hoping they have a good year (on the JV level) and will be able to compete on the varsity by the time they’re juniors,” Lawrence said. “We’re hoping to have some success and get more kids out.”
Lawrence said the band will play at the junior varsity games and there will be a homecoming game.
“It just won’t be on a Friday night. It will have to be another night of the week for JV,” Lawrence said.
Matthew Bryant, who has been coaching at Macon Meridian, has been hired as Blue Ridge coach for next season.