Tonawanda News — During a time of dwindling numbers and budget cuts across Western New York, hearing a high school sports program is cutting anything can be cause for concern.
That’s not the case out in Wilson, though, where the athletic department has cut its junior varsity football team in favor of a modified squad.
Athletic Director Jeff Roth made the decision official during the spring after discussing potential roster numbers with varsity head coach Bill Atlas and assistant Brian Baker, who will serve as head coach of the modified team. Roth said the change has increased numbers throughout the program.
“I have a very good staff of football coaches, and they came to me and presented the case,” Roth said. “They didn’t think we’d have enough (players) to field a JV team, which wouldn’t only hurt us but would hurt everybody we were supposed to play. At end of the day, they were right, and we didn’t have the numbers.
“What they knew was that we had a bunch of middle school athletes that weren’t going to qualify to play JV but were itching to play.”
Typically, the majority of varsity players come from grades 11-12, with JV teams made up of ninth and 10th graders. As a Class C school with limited numbers, Wilson has fielded JV teams made up primarily of eighth graders over the past few years. Those teams had struggled against older competition, compiling a 1-15 record over the last two seasons.
After graduating 15 seniors from last year’s varsity team, Atlas had projected 2013 varsity and JV numbers of 20 and 18 players, respectively, which could’ve been trouble if injuries hit either squad. Baker, who teaches at the middle school, worked to gauge interest of younger players, and the new format could increase overall numbers in the program by 15-20 players, according to medical clearance numbers provided to Roth by the district’s nursing staff.