A second Indiana high school announced Monday it would not field a varsity football team this fall.
Hammond Bishop Noll, a Class 2A program, notified the Indiana High School Athletic Association that it would not have a varsity team this season or next season because of low participation numbers. The school posted on its web site that it would play a junior varsity schedule the next two seasons as most of its players are currently freshmen.
“At the conclusion of the 2017-18 school year, we are optimistic about our program’s numbers for this fall,” Bishop Noll principal Lorenza Jara Pastrick said in a statement issued by the school Monday. “This summer, we have been monitoring those numbers daily throughout conditioning to assure ourselves we would have experienced players to participate safely in a varsity season.
“Unfortunately, due to low numbers of upperclassmen on the first official day of practice (Monday), we feel we cannot fully commit to competing at the varsity level right now. It is our hope and sincere goal to take this season and next season to rebuild our program from the bottom up in hopes to reignite our football program and bring it back to its past competitive level. We feel it would not be prudent or responsible to subject our young and inexperienced players to the rigors of varsity football at this time.”
Bishop Noll is a program with a proud history (the Class 3A state champion in 1989) but has struggled with numbers in recent years and not had a winning season since 2006. The Warriors were forced to forfeit a game last year against Whiting due to a low number of available players.
Bishop Noll is the second Indiana high school team to announce it would not play this season due to low numbers. Two weeks ago, Wood Memorial announced it was canceling its season because it had only 13 players on the team. The Class A program in Oakland City was forced to cancel its season in 2016 when hazing incidents came to light and several players were suspended. The numbers have not recovered since then, although administrators at Wood Memorial have expressed hope that the football program would come back next season.
Locally, Park Tudor was forced to cancel a late September game last season against Speedway when it had just 14 available players. Park Tudor coach Orlando Lowry said the team started practice Monday with 18 players, but expects to add a few more.
“Unfortunately, we had three kids move out of state and a couple more transfer or we would be right about our average, which has been about 20 to 25 kids the last seven years,” said Lowry, who is going into his seventh season. “The numbers are low, but I like the quality of the players we have and believe the future is bright.”
Lowry said the middle school numbers were up over the summer during conditioning. Park Tudor has seven seniors and three juniors, Lowry said.
“The numbers are always tight,” he said. “But this summer we had between 11 and 15 eighth-graders at middle school conditioning, where normally it is between five and eight. What happened last year (the canceled game against Speedway) was so sudden the way the positions came out. We would have had to play a quarterback and running back who had never played those positions. It would have been dangerous. But I don’t think we’re in that situation this year.”