The People's Tribune

Clopton Discontinues Joint Football Program

Clopton Discontinues Football Program

Fans of high school football will have one less team to watch this fall. The sport will not be returning for the Clopton/Elsberry IndianHawks this season.

Last Thursday, the Clopton School Board decided to discontinue participation in the football program after 15-years.

Dwindling participation in the program has been an obstacle for the coaching staff in recent years and was a contributing factor for the school district’s decision.

Last season, Head Football Coach Butch Wolanski told the Tribune that issue was their biggest challenge at the start of the season.

The 2020/2021 roster had only 22 players with the majority comprised of seniors. Only four freshmen participated last season.

Interim Superintendent, Mike Gray, sent the Tribune a press release on Tuesday, June 29 with more details on the school board’s vote.

“On Thursday, June 24, the Pike County R-III (Clopton) Board of Education voted to discontinue the junior high and high school football program,” the statement begins.

“Three factors were considered when making this decision: 1. Low Participation numbers. 2. Student/Athlete Safety 3. Professional Courtesy to our opponents to allow time for them to find a replacement opponent for the upcoming season.”

The issue with low participation echoed Coach Wolanski’s biggest obstacle last year.

“With numbers down a lot of guys will be going both ways and we need to be prepared as best as we can,” Wolanski said at the beginning of the 2020/21 season last September. “We need to be healthy. The injury bug could really bite us, but it would give the younger guys a chance to show what they can do if they get the opportunity.”

The district began its partnership with Elsberry to create the IndianHawks football team for the 2006/2007 school year.

“This was a difficult decision that was not made without a lot of thought and input. Our number one priority is the safety of our students-athletes,” Gray’s press release continued. “The Clopton Administration would like to thank members of the coaching staff and the IndianHawk Booster Club for their support of the program over the years.”

As for Elsberry, despite having an estimated 10 students ready to participate this year Elsberry Superintendent, Dr. Tim Reller said his school won’t be able to continue the program independently.

“The schools have communicated about the potential number of players interested in football for next year,” he told the Tribune. “The coaches held several meetings at both schools to gauge interest among the students. Elsberry estimated having 9-10 varsity players plus 6-8 JV players.”

Although the numbers have declined in recent years, the football careers of many students who participated in the program unknowingly ended for either school last November.

“At this time, we do not have enough players to continue the program without the co-operative agreement with Clopton,” Reller continued. “I am disappointed in the fact that some of our student-athletes that have played football since elementary school will not be able to finish their high school football careers.”

Last year, the IndianHawks went 3-6 for the season which was a slight improvement over the previous seasons.

Their last winning season was during the 2016/2017 school year where the team finished with a 7-4 record.

Player numbers and safety were given as the reason for discontinuing the program. A similar issue caused the Clopton Baseball team to end its season early this year.

Other area teams have also struggled with low participation and injuries during last year’s season.

Two years ago, Louisiana was forced to forfeit games due to injuries and not having enough players.

Quarantines were also another obstacle faced last season for teams around the country.

The People’s Tribune was unable to reach Clopton Interim Superintendent, Mike Gray, by press deadline for comment.

We will update as more information becomes available.

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