Game over

Eagles football team co-op with Warren Dragons wins most votes

Students at Youngsville High School who want to play junior varsity or varsity football next year will do so as part of the Warren Area High School team.

After rejecting two proposed motions, the Warren County School District board approved combining the two programs as a cooperative by a five-to-four margin.

The previous motions were to maintain the varsity program with additional safety measures and probation in place; and a motion by Arthur Stewart to poll the players who were signed up and had played in the past and provide “a choice to be made by them — proceed on a varsity program via the co-op — or proceed on a JV program (only) for one year.”

The first motion failed with three members — Tom Knapp, Marcy Morgan, and Mike Zamborik — in favor.

The second failed with John Anderson, Stewart, Jack Werner, and Donna Zariczny voting in favor.

Joe Colosimo made the motion that was eventually approved — that the teams co-op.

“We’re now down to one option,” Stewart said. “It’s an option I don’t like.”

Solicitor Chris Byham said the board could revisit previous motions or make new ones if the third motion failed.

The co-op was a divisive proposal. “The reality is, if you offer the co-op, a lot of kids are going to turn their backs,” Morgan said.

Youngsville Varsity Football Coach Andy Chase estimated that only 10 of the Youngsville students signed up to play football would do so through the co-op.

“The reality is, if we vote yes, football will be done in Youngsville,” Anderson said. “Once it goes to a co-op, the chances of restoring football at Youngsville are pretty slim.”

“If the support that they have here is real and they can sustain it, offering them that one year of a JV program is an opportunity,” he said.

Stewart said the board was faced with a similar decision regarding Youngsville football last year and considered going to JV only. “That, in hindsight, is the option I think we should have followed,” he said.

Asked if he would alter his motion, Colosimo declined. “We’re not here on a whim or because we want to kick the hornet’s nest,” he said. “District 10 could have penalized the district, not just Youngsville. I am sticking with my original motion.”

Colosimo asked for input from the administration.

“We were in a situation last year in the middle of the football season that we don’t ever want to be in again,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said.

“The logical, not emotional, recommendation would be we take all the kids,” she said. To “do everything we can to give every kid the opportunity to play at the ninth grade level, the JV level, the varsity level.”

She said the administration was prepared to adapt to the wishes of the board, including arranging transportation.

“They’re recommending to us that they co-op,” Colosimo said. “I’m comfortable with the job that they have done.”

Zariczny, Anderson, Paul Mangione, Stewart, and Colosimo voted in favor of that motion.

Prior to the discussion, 22 of about 110 people in attendance, signed up to speak.

Most assigned their time to Chase.

“When I look at these kids, I thought to myself, why am I putting so much time and effort into this situation,” Chase said. “I’m reminded every time I talk to one of these kids.”

“It’s been said to me that it was felt that I handled myself perfectly, that I had the kids’ best interest in mind,” Chase said. “The coaches that stand with me have the same concepts, the same beliefs that I do.”

“Why not give us a chance?” Chase said. “We have the numbers.”

“One of the biggest issues has been the numbers,” he said. “Injuries increase with fatigue.”

The number of players signed up would allow players to get the rest they need to reduce that fatigue and reduce the chance of injury, he said. “We have depth this year that we haven’t had in years past.”

With respect to a cooperative agreement, Chase said barriers, including transportation, would dramatically reduce the number of Youngsville players able to participate.

“You’re taking a football team of over 40 kids and dwindling them to probably 10,” Chase said. “You’re leaving out the opportunity for 30 of these kids to play.”

“Will they still have the opportunity if their parents can’t get them there?” Kathy Kesterholt said.

She referred to the cooperative agreement proposal as a “forced co-op.”

“Football is a contact sport and there are going to be injuries,” Kesterholt said. “Every year I sign the waivers of concussion and sudden cardiac arrest for my son.”

“How is the co-op with Warren more safe for our boys?” she asked. “What is the real reason?”

“Rebuilding the Youngsville football team is necessary,” Betty Fitzgerald said. “Schools, kids, their activities and school spirit is the foundation of our community.”

“Please give us a chance,” Fitzgerald said. “Please give these kids and their coach a chance.”

“When I was a kid, I remember going to YHS football games,” Ethan Benedict said. “I remember looking at the high school players in awe. I always said I wanted to be one of them.”

He said the outcome of the game is not what is important to him about being a member of the team, but the camaraderie.

Scott Ishman, a coach for many years, spoke about the positive impacts Youngsville sports have had on his life.

“If it wasn’t for the athletics, I would have never made it out of high school,” he said. “I never would have been the good influence I am today.”

District Attorney Rob Greene, who was recognized by the board for his positive efforts on behalf of students in the district, used a portion of his time at the podium to speak on the football topic.

“Sports is more than just kids playing a sport,” Greene said. “Athletics is what keeps kids out of trouble, what keeps them off of drugs, keeps them from playing video games all day. I wish you the best of luck.”

“All of these positive things that have been said about us… that’s a direct reflection of the coaches, the parents, and the community,” Chase said. “I’m not asking for anyone to save this program. This program is heading in the right direction. We’re just asking you for the opportunity to prove it to you.”

“These kids are capable of great things,” he said. “There are going to be teams that are going to be circling Youngsville on their calendar… because they’re a threat.”

After the vote, Youngsville Borough Council member Rick Brewster expressed concerns beyond the football program. “The next thing you’re going to have an opportunity to look at is a facility,” he said. “It doesn’t take a genius to sit out here and realize that could be in trouble.”

“People move to communities for the opportunities of recreation and education,” Brewster said. “I am truly concerned about the direction that this board is going to take going forward relative to Youngsville High School.”