Injuries Force Early End To Raiders’ Varsity Grid Season
RUTHVEN The lights will be dark at the football field at Ruthven-Ayrshire High School this Friday night, and the West Bend-Mallard Wolverines won’t be stepping onto the Raiders’ home field to meet up in a county rivalry game.
After much soul searching and bowing to the inevitable, officials of the Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School District officially ended the varsity football season Monday morning, Sept. 19, due to continued injury woes for the football program and a low number of healthy players on the squad.
Coming off of a satisfying 30-20 win over Granville Spalding on Sept. 2, the Raiders were faced with a major dilemma as their football season progressed trying to keep players healthy in order to keep the team’s season going.
After an open week without a game on Sept. 9, the Raiders hosted their Homecoming game last Friday night against in-county rival Graettinger/Terril, and lost a 52-8 decision to the Knights. However it wasn’t the numerical loss on the scoreboard that hurt the Raiders the most, it was the injury of two more players from an already depleted lineup.
With 13 players on the roster going into the game, the roster was reduced to 11 players, with four seniors in that mix along with five freshmen.
“As of yesterday, Monday, Sept. 19, we made the difficult decision to suspend the varsity football season at Ruthven-Ayrshire,” explained RA Principal/Athletic Director Jon Josephson. “We had met with the players, parents and coaching staff three weeks ago and had laid out some guidelines for what could happen, and with the injuries to a couple more players last Friday night, we just had no other choice but to take this action.”
By suspending varsity play, the Raiders forfeited their remaining five games for the season, giving their opponents in those games 1-0 wins, which give each team 13 playoff points for the forfeit win. Those games would have been with West Bend-Mallard, Corwith-Wesley-LuVerne, North Sentral Kossuth, Armstrong-Ringsted and Harris-Lake Park.
“We learned Monday that Ruthven-Ayrshire had chosen to suspend their season and wouldn’t be playing us this Friday night,” West Bend-Mallard Athletic Director Koy Goodchild said. “We’re sorry that we don’t have a game now on Friday night, but yet, we feel bad for Ruthven-Ayrshire, too. It’s a tough situation for them to be in, that’s for sure.”
The situation traces its beginning back to the start of the season when 15 players turned out for pre-season drills. Of that number, five players were freshmen and one sophomore. The rest of the Raider lineup consisted of five seniors and four juniors. But in the first two games of the season, two players suffered season-ending injuries, bringing the Raiders’ roster down to 13 players going into the Sept. 2 game. Knowing they were climbing a steep mountain, concerns prompted a meeting of the players, their parents, football coaching staff and school administrators on Aug. 29 to discuss the situation.
“Some concerns came to us, just as far as safety of the players, considering that we just had the eight that are upper classmen,” explained Ruthven-Ayrshire Superintendent Dr. Noreen Bunt. “For them to play the entire game would be exhausting for them and we worried about injury in that respect, and we also worried about injuries by putting freshmen in against upperclassmen from other teams.”
That concern weighed heavily on the school administration, as well as the coaching staff, according to Dr. Bunt. “Looking ahead, we had a variety of pretty aggressive teams that we were going to be playing. That’s why we decided to have the meeting with our coaches, parents and football players to talk about options.”
The options arrived at in the meeting included to simply forfeit the remaining games and not play varsity football the remainder of the season. Another option was to play Junior Varsity football, with one or two of the upperclassmen playing in various games for the rest of the season. It is this combination of options that the Raiders ended up accepting, albeit with reluctance.
“We are going to go ahead and play out our junior varsity schedule for the rest of the season, and are looking at possibly adding another JV game, as we have been approached by a school that is interested in doing so,” Josephson said. “At the same time, we’re working on some options to keep our remaining four senior players involved in the program. We can’t let them play together in the JV games against freshman, because that’s just what we were facing ourselves and it wouldn’t be fair to the other team freshmen, or really to our kids. We’re looking at a way that maybe one or two of them might be able to play in a game here and there to keep them involved.”
To forfeit a varsity season is a big step, especially in a small town that is used to Friday night football in the early Fall. So what is the feeling among the players and the community about the decision?
“I think the general feeling is a reluctant acceptance, knowing that it was something that had to be done,” Josephson said. “I know the kids are disappointed, as are their coaches, parents and fans, but they knew this was coming back on Friday night. It’s just one of those decisions you hope you never have to make, and then when it’s made, you hate the fact that it had to be made.”
Even though the varsity schedule is done, it doesn’t mean the Raiders are done the Junior Varsity schedule still has three games remaining, starting with a contest on Monday, Oct. 3 against the Armstrong-Ringsted JV in Ruthven and a contest on Oct. 10 where the Raiders host Corwith-Wesley-LuVerne. A third contest is set for Monday, Sept. 17 at Royal against Clay Central-Everly.
“We all wish that things could have worked out differently, that’s for sure. But with what we were facing, there was not going to be a good outcome,” Josephson said. “I’m sure it will be an unpopular decision, but in the long run, we made the decision we had to make in the best interest of the kids. There was just no way to make a decision that would make everyone happy, no matter what you ended up doing.”