Elsie Allen won’t field varsity football team this season
One year after having to forfeit two games because of inadequate roster numbers and a squad depleted by injury, Elsie Allen High School will not field a varsity football team this fall.
It marks the second time in two seasons that a North Bay League-Redwood Division varsity football program has folded before the completion of the season. Last fall, Healdsburg High shuttered its varsity season after an 0-2 start and dwindling numbers prompted players to vote to disband the team.
Elsie Allen Principal Gabriel Albavera, just starting his second year at the helm, said school officials will focus on developing the Lobos’ junior varsity team this season — a move he hopes will translate into success at the varsity level in the future.
“For the safety of our students, we felt that it was best to just do a JV team,” he said.
That said, a coach has not yet been hired to lead the JV team. Dallas Packard, who stepped in to coach the varsity team on the eve of the season last year, resigned his post at the end of the school year. The Lobos had been scheduled to open their season Aug. 23 with a home game against Harker High School from San Jose. League play was scheduled to start Oct. 11 with a road game in Healdsburg.
The vacant coaching position has been posted since June, but the job drew the first of “three or four” resumes just last week, Albavera said.
“We are trying to get them in, if not this week, then the beginning of next week,” he said of coaching candidates.
Albavera was quick to praise Packard, who was set to stay aboard and lead the team through this transitional JV season. Albavera said his departure was not football-related.
“He was wanting to stay with us,” he said. “He was gung-ho in spring practice, here with kids. This is not having anything to do with frustration or lack of success.
“He decided to leave for a family situation,” Albavera said. “We are going to miss him. We really appreciated the work he had done.”
Still, Packard’s departure has to ring familiar — and troubling — for Lobos boosters. He was the eighth head varsity football coach at Elsie Allen since November 2014.
“Coaches coming and going leads to less morale with our students, especially students who are committed to playing football,” Albavera said.
The Lobos went 0-9 last season, including two forfeits, one of which was the final game of the year. They scored 48 points while allowing 426. When the Lobos beat St. Vincent two years ago on Aug. 25, 2017, it was the first win for the football program since September 2013. The school has long struggled to draw enough numbers to field a junior varsity program.
The disruption of yet another coaching change was exacerbated by turnover in both campus athletic director positions and a dearth of applicants to fill the coaching post. One athletic director has been hired, but officials are still trying to fill the second AD position.
North Bay League Commissioner Jan Smith Billing is scheduled to meet with Albavera on Wednesday, in part to help map a way forward. It was unclear Tuesday how the loss of a Lobos squad would affect other NBL-Redwood teams and their schedules.
“I found out very late,” Smith Billing said. “Ten percent of your season is lost if you can’t find a team to play.”