Healdsburg High School shelves varsity football for remainder of season

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Healdsburg High School will not field a varsity football team for the remainder of the season after the team voted Monday night to disband the squad.

The junior varsity team will continue to compete as scheduled.

The Greyhounds had started the season 0-2 after being beaten 41-0 by Drake in the season opener Aug. 17 and 61-0 by Justin-Siena last week. The team was scheduled to play at San Rafael on Friday night.

Principal Bill Halliday described the mood on campus Tuesday as one of “disappointment.”

“I’ve had a lot of conversations, a few surprised teachers, a few calls from parents,” he said.

Halliday said a number of factors contributed to the players’ decision, which he said was made by anonymous ballot.

The varsity roster was 18 players deep at the start of the season, but after the first two lopsided losses of the season, five players turned in their uniforms. On Monday morning yet another player decided to quit. That is when head coach Dave Stine called a team meeting, Halliday said.

The vote is not a reflection on the coaching staff, he said.

“I don’t think this is about an insurrection at all,” he said. “I think our coaches are reasonable men who run a good program.”

“He does a good job,” Halliday said of Stine.

Stine was in his second season, after stepping in prior to the start of last season. Stine declined to comment Tuesday and referred questions to Halliday.

The school has endured declining enrollment for years and the number of students turning out for football has been unpredictable. Two years ago, there was not enough interest to field a junior varsity team. This year, however, there are 30 players on the JV squad.

In addition, more parents and students are expressing concern about football’s long-term impact on their health, namely concussions, Halliday said.

“A lot of parents don’t want their kids playing football,” he said. “It’s hard to watch, but I can’t question or second-guess a parent who has concerns.”

As Healdsburg’s enrollment has fallen, wins have been harder to come by.

Enrollment was 552 last year, according to California Department of Education records. In 2007-08, enrollment was listed at 895.

Since 2012, the varsity football team has gone 18-34 overall and 10-19 in the Sonoma County League.

“We are a small school now,” Halliday said. “Small-school sports will ebb and flow in the years.”

Halliday said he was hopeful the varsity program would be resurrected next season. Players from the disbanded varsity team will be allowed to suit up for the JV team, which is 1-1 on the season.

The cancellation of the season affects the eight teams that were scheduled to play Healdsburg, including squads in the newly configured North Bay League-Redwood Division. It also puts a hit on campus revenue through ticket sales and concession profits.

Halliday said the school will continue to support the JV team.

“We have some work to do. We have to figure out what to do with Homecoming. It’s not simple,” Halliday said. “That is our task right now — to not lose Friday night lights, but to tweak it a little bit.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @benefield

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