With only a handful of upperclassmen signed up for the upcoming season, Pine River-Backus High School coaches and officials have decided not to field a varsity football team this fall.
"We are low on numbers," PRB activities director Randy Schwegel said. "We have 22 kids or so. We have only one senior and we have 11 ninth-graders. For the safety of those kids-you know, putting a ninth-grader out there against seniors-we didn't feel it was a wise decision."
Though varsity games will not be played, area football fans can enjoy junior varsity games in PR-B, often in the varsity's Friday night timeslot including against Bagley for homecoming.
The JV team is scheduled to play five of its eight games on Fridays, but will not travel to Warroad, Fosston or Ada-Borup. Schwegel hopes the team can pick up a few additional games with nearby teams like Crosby-Ironton or Pillager, but those games would be played on whichever day their opponent can play.
The team's lone senior and roughly six juniors will be able to play on the JV team, and opposing teams have been informed that a few upperclassmen will be on the roster.
"I never thought I would see this day," Schwegel said. "Our numbers have been good over the past few years, but we kind of saw this coming last year. We graduated a pretty good core of seniors, which left us with just one senior. We thought we would have two or three ... We are hoping to piece together our schedule and get these kids some games this fall so they do gain that experience."
Additionally, the school will eliminate its football scout coaching position, but the majority of the team's coaches will remain this year.
Schwegel also said numbers at the junior high level are good, and the school hopes to field a varsity team again in 2019. However, freshman athletes will be able to spend this season gaining experience against players of roughly the same size and speed.
"If you put 160-pound freshman linemen out there against 240-pound senior linemen, and they get beat up, they are not going to enjoy that and we might not see them again," Schwegel said. "We are looking at what we feel is best for our football players right now."