Bowler/Gresham eight-man varsity season canceled

Co-op hopes to play JV games this year, field varsity in future

While most football teams were gearing up for the start of the regular season, the Bowler/Gresham co-op was scrambling to find enough players to roster an eight-man team.

The team’s recruiting efforts came up short, forcing the co-op to cancel its varsity season.

“One of the biggest factors besides the low numbers was that about half of the players on the team either were freshman or hadn’t played football last season. So there was a lot of youth and inexperience,” coach Eric Peebles said.

The Bowler/Gresham co-op made the switch from 11-man to eight-man football back in 2013. After winning five games that season and four in 2014, the Cats have earned just one win since.

While this year’s varsity season was canceled, Peebles is still hopeful to find a couple of junior varsity games for the players to take part in.

Peebles is also hoping this is the only season the co-op will not field a varsity team, although with such a low number of upperclassmen interested, it’s possible the team plays a junior varsity schedule next year.

While roster numbers are usually pretty low for eight-man teams around the state, Bowler/Gresham did not anticipate that being an issue this season.

“We had meetings with students who wanted to play football this season in January and also at the end of the school year. And numbers in those meetings were up from previous years with 15-to-18 players expecting to come out. So we were not really expecting this,” Peebles said.

When practice opened at the start of August, there was just nine players present.

After a week of practice, the team tried to recruit some other athletes to the team. The attempt did not yield the amount of players the co-op hoped for, forcing the team to make the tough decision to cancel the varsity season.

“We talked as a team about our situation and everyone understands our position. We have three seniors on the team and they just want to play football, no matter if its a varsity schedule or JV schedule,” Peebles said. “For our younger players, a JV schedule is more of a benefit so that they can learn and figure things out. They all know that it is our jobs as coaches to look out for what’s best for them as a team and as individuals.”