By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff
It’s easy to see Roaring Fork High School’s decision not to field a varsity football team next year as a defeat, but Athletic Director Jade Bath would beg to differ.
“We’re not doing this because we lost,” she said. “We’re doing it because it’s best for the kids and we’re trying to keep them safe. It’s gonna hurt, but it’s the decision we had to make.”
Although the end of a two-year schedule cycle made it the moment to act, fielding just a junior varsity team had been on the table for some time. The Rams haven’t had the numbers for both for a while, and enrollment is too large to drop down to a smaller league. The two dozen kids who showed up to play this year were barely enough to pad out varsity, particularly after injuries and eligibility issues came into play. It made for a rough season — no wins and score gaps deep enough to keep the clock running through the second half most nights — particularly for the less experienced players.
“You need at least 25 varsity level kids just to compete, and anymore we don’t get those numbers,” Bath said. “We were putting in little freshmen kids against seniors or else they’re coming to practice every day and not being able to play.”
Still, the kids rose to the occasion. Not only did the beleaguered bunch turn out for each game with their heads high, but their classmates backed them as well. One student cheered the team through their first home defeat, then turned up at practice the next week to pitch in — and he wasn’t alone.
“I get emotional about it. That’s what makes me proud to work at Roaring Fork,” Bath said. “We couldn’t be more proud of those boys and our coaching staff.”
It’s far from unprecedented, and schools have come out the other side before.
“Both Basalt and Aspen have had years they didn’t have a program at all,” Bath said. “We want to do everything we can to bring this back.”
That will probably mean addressing some of the factors leading to the crunch: fear of concussions, fewer pee wee programs and competition from other sports.
On the bright side, spectators are left with a lot of other options. You’ll see plenty of familiar faces playing JV, not to mention the volleyball girls and a boys’ soccer crew that just keeps getting better and might now have a chance to play under the Friday night lights.
“Fall is a crazy time for sports. We have games almost every night,” Bath said. “Come out and support our other teams.”