QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson High School athletic director Todd Fannin announced Friday morning that the school would field a football team this fall.
After 23 varsity players practiced in an early session, Fannin said a “unanimous decision” was reached among players, coaches and administrators during a team meeting.
“We have 23 helmets on kids and that’s not far off from where we usually are,” said Fannin, who estimated that SJHS averaged 25-30 varsity players.
Just two days ago, the Generals were seriously considering folding and contacted schools on their football schedule to alert them of the possibility.
East Rockingham principal Eric Baylor said Thursday that the Eagles and other Shenandoah District teams were “scrambling” to find a 10th game to replace Stonewall.
That will no longer be necessary.
Stonewall was facing a serious numbers issue earlier this week, partially due to dwindling enrollment.
“Five years ago, we had 575 kids in school. We’re down to 450 now,” Fannin said of Stonewall, which is one of the smallest schools in the 2A classification and is projected to drop to 1A in 2015. “…It’s not just football that our numbers are down in.”
Although more than 30 players signed up for football in May, only 10 showed up to collect equipment on Monday. That number climbed to 20 on the first day of practice Thursday, giving longtime SJHS coach Dick Krol hope that the Generals will be able to start the season as scheduled on Aug. 29 at Strasburg.
“Until we physically just get beat up to the point that we can’t compete, we will continue,” Krol said.
Krol has dealt with low numbers in his two-plus decades coaching at Stonewall, but nothing like this preseason.
“I’ve never had this situation,” said Krol, who has coached football for 47 years overall. “ We can’t put our finger on what the devil is going on.”