Thousands of schools across the country make fielding a football team look like a simple task. Yet there are thousands of others who have trouble putting a team together in a sport that requires more participation than any other.
Two schools in bordering states are working together to fend off the extinction of their programs.
The Spokesman-Review tells the story of Mullan (Idaho) and St. Regis (Montana), two schools with respective student bodies of under 40 who have agreed to a rare interstate football co-op. The team will compete in Idaho’s smallest classification.
As the Spokesman-Review reports, the Idaho High School Activities Association and the Montana High School Association recently approved the merger. St. Regis students will join Mullan and compete in the White Star League, a conference of eight eight-man football teams in North Idaho.
Two years ago, Mullan cancelled its season due to lack of players. Last year, it dressed nine players. That’s right. Nine. Meanwhile, St. Regis forfeited its last three games in 2017 once injuries and disciplinary shredded the roster.
“I’ve never had more than 12 players on my team since I’ve been here,” eighth-year Mullan football coach and athletic director Stetson Spooner, Mullan football coach and athletic director told the Spokesman-Review. “It will be nice to have depth and actually be able to bench players if they’re late or skip practice.”
St. Regis coach Jesse Allan wishes he had as many players as Spooner. He has never had more than eight players in his three years in Montana’s six-man football classification. The Spokesman-Review reports that Allan will join Spooner’s staff across the state line. The merger was initially Allan’s idea, but he was left with little choice.
“It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to make something here in Montana,” Allan told the Spokesman-Review. “It sucks to bite the bullet and not have a program of our own, but at the end of the day, it’s about the kids playing football.”
The two towns of Mullan and St. Regis aren’t exactly neighbors either. They are roughly 40 miles apart, with Mullan being in the Pacific Time zone and St. Regis being on Mountain Time. Anything to play.
“I thought ‘How would this even work? Getting players over the the state line, no way,’ ” Spooner told the Spokeman-Review. “Then the more we talked about it, it became more and more feasible.”
You can read more of the Spokesman-Review’s fascinating story of schools merging across state lines here.