Football season at Novato High in jeopardy

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Varsity football, a 60-year tradition at Novato High School, is in danger of being dissolved because of low participation.

Administrators on Monday issued a press release announcing the school would not field a varsity team for the 2017-18 season. But they softened that stance within hours.

By evening, principal Matt Baldwin emailed NHS families, stating if at least 25 juniors and seniors attend the first mandatory practice on Aug. 7, "we can save" the season.
Baldwin acknowledged "an overwhelming public response and support" from the community.
In fact, many families felt blindsided by the decision.   

"Novato football is huge in this town," parent Jody Kuehn told KTVU, "and for most of these boys, they have been playing together since they were 7 years old."
Members of the varsity team have been practicing all summer, but admit the numbers were inconsistent.
"There was probably enough players to make a team but no one came at the same time," junior Abner Diaz told KTVU.

Players blame a lack of communication, and commitment, with some teens opting to take family vacations. At least 16 players are needed to field a team.
"They told us we had until Monday, today, to have 19 people and we did, and we told them," junior Parker Kuehn told KTVU.

"But they shut us down on Friday,” he said, “so we didn't really have a chance."
Monday afternoon, parents said the list of committed players was at 22.
"There's no reason they could not have played, absolutely not, so we don't know why they're doing this to the program."

Last week, head coach Jason Searle stepped down, saying he needed more time with his family. Searle teaches history and also coaches NHS baseball, but apparently assumed his coaching staff would keep the program viable.
The day after Searle's resignation, the athletic director assured families by e-mail:  "varsity level will continue as planned".

Then, a day later, an abrupt change of course took place.
"The assistant principal called and said he wanted to let me know the varsity program has been cancelled," Jody Kuehn said, "and I said what are you talking about?"

That's when families launched their own drive to save the season.

On Facebook, they spread the word, not only among current students, but alumni, like 1980-graduate Scott Dennison, who played football all four years.
Dennison went to work, silk-screening yellow T-shirts with the words, "Save Novato Football," at his business, Zephyr Pacific Sportswear.

"I think if it goes away it will never come back, and you've got to keep all those kids off the street," declared Dennison, "because there's plenty of mischief, gangs and stuff, they can get into if they're not playing football and at practice every day."

"I think if our community comes together we can save it," Assistant Principal Greg Fister told KTVU Monday evening, backing down on the declaration from earlier in the day it would "not field a varsity team".
Now, the school is granting a one-week reprieve, hoping to encourage new recruits and adding players who are ready, from the junior varsity team.

"We've had phone calls the last couple of days, parents who love the fact that their kids can play football at Novato High School, their fathers played at Novato High School, and juniors and seniors who want to graduate here and play football."

There may be some years before the Novato Hornets return to their glory days, playing in a state championship in 2007, and winning four section titles leading up to it.

But today's students just want to play.

"I want to play here this year," junior Ethan Kuehn told KTVU, "and I don't want to play for San Marin, I don't want to play for another school."

Administrators will hold a meeting with concerned families Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. in the school cafeteria to sort out the mixed signals and future going forward.  High School, is in danger of being dissolved because of low participation.

Administrators on Monday issued a press release announcing the school would not field a varsity team for the 2017-18 season. But they softened that stance within hours.

By evening, principal Matt Baldwin emailed NHS families, stating if at least 25 juniors and seniors attend the first mandatory practice on Aug. 7, "we can save" the season.
Baldwin acknowledged "an overwhelming public response and support" from the community.
In fact, many families felt blindsided by the decision.   

"Novato football is huge in this town," parent Jody Kuehn told KTVU, "and for most of these boys, they have been playing together since they were 7 years old."
Members of the varsity team have been practicing all summer, but admit the numbers were inconsistent.
"There was probably enough players to make a team but no one came at the same time," junior Abner Diaz told KTVU.

Players blame a lack of communication, and commitment, with some teens opting to take family vacations. At least 16 players are needed to field a team.
"They told us we had until Monday, today, to have 19 people and we did, and we told them," junior Parker Kuehn told KTVU.

"But they shut us down on Friday,” he said, “so we didn't really have a chance."
Monday afternoon, parents said the list of committed players was at 22.
"There's no reason they could not have played, absolutely not, so we don't know why they're doing this to the program."

Last week, head coach Jason Searle stepped down, saying he needed more time with his family. Searle teaches history and also coaches NHS baseball, but apparently assumed his coaching staff would keep the program viable.
The day after Searle's resignation, the athletic director assured families by e-mail:  "varsity level will continue as planned".

Then, a day later, an abrupt change of course took place.
"The assistant principal called and said he wanted to let me know the varsity program has been cancelled," Jody Kuehn said, "and I said what are you talking about?"

That's when families launched their own drive to save the season.

On Facebook, they spread the word, not only among current students, but alumni, like 1980-graduate Scott Dennison, who played football all four years.
Dennison went to work, silk-screening yellow T-shirts with the words, "Save Novato Football," at his business, Zephyr Pacific Sportswear.

"I think if it goes away it will never come back, and you've got to keep all those kids off the street," declared Dennison, "because there's plenty of mischief, gangs and stuff, they can get into if they're not playing football and at practice every day."

"I think if our community comes together we can save it," Assistant Principal Greg Fister told KTVU Monday evening, backing down on the declaration from earlier in the day it would "not field a varsity team".
Now, the school is granting a one-week reprieve, hoping to encourage new recruits and adding players who are ready, from the junior varsity team.

"We've had phone calls the last couple of days, parents who love the fact that their kids can play football at Novato High School, their fathers played at Novato High School, and juniors and seniors who want to graduate here and play football."

There may be some years before the Novato Hornets return to their glory days, playing in a state championship in 2007, and winning four section titles leading up to it.

But today's students just want to play.

"I want to play here this year," junior Ethan Kuehn told KTVU, "and I don't want to play for San Marin, I don't want to play for another school."

Administrators will hold a meeting with concerned families Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. in the school cafeteria to sort out the mixed signals and future going forward.

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