By Gabe Lefkowitz
Confusion about the future of the football team has run rampant, but the team is not disbanded. Mr. Tom Umstatter, head of athletics at South, said, “The furthest thing from my mind is cutting the program.” For the remainder of this season, athletes from all grades will play on one JV team. Neither the behavior nor the ability of the team had any bearing on this decision.
Not enough students attended football tryouts, which was the root of the problem. Approximately 20 students came, but the governing body for Nassau County athletics mandates that each team must have at least 18 players.
As the season progressed, the team attracted more athletes. By the first game, there were 37 players: 12 freshmen, 4 sophomores, 10 juniors, and 11 seniors. Because BOCES requires all football players to attend 15 practices before a game, many athletes could not play. As a result, Mr. Umstatter had to tell BOCES that we would have one football team.
Another factor in his decision was that a majority of the players (21) were new to the field.
He said, “[The goal of having a JV team is] to teach students to play football and prepare them to play in a safe way.”
The varsity teams that South would have played against gain a win whenever South comes up in the schedule.
This is not the first time South has had to combine the football program. In 2005, the majority of the varsity players were seniors. When they graduated in 2006, the football program made one JV team with the remaining players. Since then, South has been able to form two teams.
Having one football team is common among North Shore high schools: Great Neck North and Jericho have one varsity team, and Port Washington doesn’t play in Section 8 anymore.
The hope is to have two teams in the future because there will be more players with experience next year. Additionally, a few middle school athletes who are playing football with North Middle (South Middle has no football program) will play for South High next year. Mr. Umstatter said, “[This is the] best way of not turning the lights out.”