It’s homecoming week in St. Helena, but this year’s hoopla will be understated. There will be no varsity football game to anchor the occasion.
Faced with an acute manpower shortage, visiting Clear Lake had to forfeit the game.
“It’s our problem, and it’s also St. Helena’s problem, with homecoming and everything,” Clear Lake athletic director Milo Meyer said. “I felt so sorry for (fellow AD) Tom Hoppe down there. But it’s uncontrollable. There’s nothing we can do.”
The Cardinals have been dealing with a precarious personnel situation all season. The team picture on the Clear Lake High website features 16 boys; the roster accompanying the photo lists 18. More recently the team was down to 14 kids — and that included four or five who had been pulled up from junior varsity.
Then it got worse. Five Clear Lake varsity players suffered injuries. And against Lower Lake last week, a shoving match broke out as the Cardinals scored on an 80-yard fumble return, and two players from each team were kicked out of the game. By rule, none of the ejected players can suit up this week.
“We had practice Monday and we had seven kids. (Tuesday) we had nine,” said Meyer, who coached at Clear Lake for years. “The other issue is we already went to our JVs and pulled up every kid who could possibly play at the varsity level. It’s a safety issue now. The rest, they’re either 14 and not ready, or they’re sophomores who haven’t played much. It’s the first time this has happened up here.”
Not that Meyer is entirely surprised at this point. Enrollment at Clear Lake has dropped below 400, he said. The senior class has 75 students, and of course about half of those are girls.
So Meyer had to tell Hoppe the Cardinals varsity team isn’t coming Friday.
St. Helena suffers on two fronts. The Saints lose their final tune up before playing Fort Bragg in the game that promises to decide the NCL I championship this year. And their homecoming festivities will be a little weird.
“Our kids will be resilient, and as a team we’ll be ready to play next week,” football coach Brandon Farrell said. “It’s all we can do. I know Darin (Brodnansky, the Clear Lake coach) and Milo are doing everything they can. You have to be conscious of the safety to your own kids. I’m sympathetic with their scenario.”
Anyway, the show will go on. St. Helena and Clear Lake will play a JV game at 7:15 p.m. Friday, with homecoming floats at halftime and a powder puff game beforehand. It’s not ideal, but it promises to be memorable.
As for the Cardinals, they are holding out hope for a game against Kelseyville on Oct. 30. The suspended players will be back, and Meyer thinks at least one boy will have returned from a knee injury.
“We’re hoping to piecemeal some other kids,” he said. “If we do, maybe we’ll have 12 or 13 kids the next week.”
You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
High school football
All games at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
Windsor at Rancho Cotate
Cardinal Newman at Ukiah
Casa Grande at Maria Carrillo
Santa Rosa at Montgomery
Healdsburg at Sonoma Valley
Elsie Allen at Petaluma
Middletown at Kelseyville
Cloverdale at Lower Lake
Fort Bragg at Willits
RV Christian at Laytonville, 6 p.m.
Tomales at Potter Valley, 7 p.m.
Mendocino at Calistoga, 7 p.m.
St. Vincent at Harker, 7 p.m.
*El Molino vs. Analy
Upper Lake at Point Arena, 2 p.m.
* at Rancho Cotate High School