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Over 60 members of the community met at Blue Ridge High School to discuss the future of football program Thursday night.
School administrators, coaches and fans offered their opinions on how to improve a program that has won just three games in its last eight seasons.
Principal John Lawrence said there are no intentions of cutting the program. The meeting was scheduled to allow players, parents and members of the community an opportunity to provide their thoughts and concerns in an effort to head a new direction.
“As long as there are students who want to play football, we want to provide that service,” Lawrence said. “But we need to talk about how things are, what we would like to do, and some things we need to do to get our program where we’d like it to be.”
Last season’s volunteer coaches Timothy Revel and Josh Moody spoke to the problems they faced as coaches and the support they would need from administrators, parents and the players to be successful.
Early player estimates for next season include five seniors, one junior, 13 sophomores and five freshmen totaling 24 players – a terrifyingly low number for Revel and Moody work with.
Revel said they had 30 players to start this season, but only six made it to every practice.
“There is no way we can have a successful football program where people are missing practices, games and football related activities,” Revel said. “This year we all know that members of the coaching staff didn’t show up all the time. It starts with us because we have to set the example.”
For reference, Danville Schlarman began the season with fewer than 20 varsity players and ended up forfeiting multiple games due to player injuries.
Revel said there needs to be more structure and planning within the program in order to turn things around. Strict weightlifting schedules and playbooks – both of which were missing from the Knights team this season – need to be implemented immediately.
“I have never in my life been around a football program that does not lift weights,” Revel said. “Honestly, that was the craziest thing I had ever heard of.”
The public meeting comes at a time of change for the Knights football program. Head coach Kent Miller and assistant coach David Kirby officially left the team when the school board accepted their resignations at its Oct. 17 meeting.
Possible options discussed Thursday were 1) continuing with the varsity program as is; 2) going JV-only until the numbers increase to a suitable level; 3) seeking information about a possible co-op with another area team; 4) or eliminating the program.
Jeanene Gilbert, mother of football player Tony Cheek, believes co-op is not a viable option.
“These kids want to be Knights,” Gilbert said. “They don’t want to go somewhere else. It’s demeaning to even consider sending them somewhere else because even though they are losing, they still want to be Knights. They are still proud of being football players.”
Farmer City resident and long-time fan Tom Rick is already planning for how the school and community could embrace whoever is hired as the new football coach.
“I think it would be great to have an assembly for every young man in the school to let them know what this guy is about,” Rick said.
There are no additional public meetings scheduled at this time.
"We kind of came to a consensus that we'll go ahead and continue with the varsity football program," Blue Ridge Athletics Director Eric Decker said. "We set up guidelines for the kids not in basketball to begin lifting weights for the next two months."
Decker said there is no timetable set to hire a new head coach, but the school will list the opening immediately.