Saratoga will not play its varsity 11-man football schedule in 2018.
Saratoga activities director Greg Bartlett said Wednesday the program only expected 10 to 12 players to come out this fall, not enough for pursuing a full 11-man season.
With low participation, Bartlett said, “it’s tough to keep a season together.”
Instead, the Panthers will pursue a six-man sub-varsity schedule this season, scheduling as many games as possible against nearby junior varsity squads. Bartlett said he’s already got one game scheduled but would prefer five or six games. He said the team’s schedule should be mostly in place by the end of next week, but some games may be added later depending on how the schedule comes together.
Bartlett said the move is likely temporary.
“In about two to three years, we have some elementary boys coming into the middle school where there might be 20 boys per class,” Bartlett said.
The Panthers play in the Class 1A 11-man West Conference. The program also draws players from nearby Encampment.
Bartlett said about three seniors, a couple juniors, about four sophomores and three freshmen showed interest in playing this fall. He said more may join when the season starts, but the decision to forgo the varsity season had to be made based on the numbers of committed players, not on the number of maybes.
Logan Wright, who previously coached in Rock River and taught in Laramie, will be the Panthers’ new head coach this fall. Wright will also teach PE in Saratoga.
Wright previously was a six-man assistant at Rock River, as part of the middle-school program in 2013 and the high school in 2014 and 2015.
“I’m certainly going into it looking at like were a varsity team and we’re going to put our best foot forward every day,” Wright said via telephone on Wednesday. “Whether the games count or not doesn’t matter to me.”
Saratoga played in the Class 1A six-man East Conference for one season, in 2013. Otherwise, the Panthers have fielded a varsity 11-man program every year since moving up after a two-year stint of nine-man football in 1991. The program has played a varsity schedule every season since 1955.