As the years go by, constant frustration strikes the students and players of Dexter’s High School football team. For too long, the Dreads have been plagued with a lack of wins and seemingly little hope for a cure. Students throw blame to the players and coaches, but they may be accusing the wrong people.
For the past three seasons, including this year, the Dreads haven’t had the personnel to put together a freshmen team, a junior varsity team, and a varsity team at the same time. Due to a lack of personnel, the Dreads were forced to scrap a JV team this season. On top of that, the 14 sophomores in the program are all forced to play at the varsity level with kids who are two or three years older.
Junior Alex Strang believes that is one reason it’s hard for the team to improve.
“I think if coaches and players can recruit more kids to play, our program will definitely improve,” Strang said.
However, recruiting more people won’t solve the root of the participation problem. The lack of participation in the program is a result of the lack of agreement between coaches. At the middle school level, Coach Ken Koenig has a set of requirements for the middle school coaches to abide by. He wants to make sure that there are eleven starters on offense and eleven different starters on defense.
He didn’t want kids in middle school playing both sides of the ball and wanted to limit playing time to make sure every kid played. If middle school coaches respected those rules, then the football program would have depth and experience at each position at all levels in the program.
“With the lack of kids playing, there are also less-experienced subs for the starters. As the game goes on, the starters get tired,” Coach Koenig said. “With some playing both sides of the ball, it makes it harder for the starters to get their stamina back.”
Despite these rules, the middle school coaches still played current seniors, juniors, and sophomores on both sides of the ball while the majority of the other kids sat the bench during middle school play. Deterring kids away from the football program, the middle school coaches successfully slimmed down a chunk of kids from each class. For example, there were 40 sophomores playing middle school level football in recent years. Currently, there are only fourteen sophomore players in the Dexter program.
This drop-off in kids has a huge effect on the football program. With the lack of numbers, it makes practices more difficult, and since lack of players also means lack of experienced players, it is harder for the experienced players to get better with practice. This leads to little athletic growth among Varsity football players.
“In football, you need another quality back-up squad to go against the starting squad,” Coach Koenig said. “If you have this, it provides a good look to prepare for the next team.”
The lack of participation is not only affecting DHS, but other schools across Michigan as well. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, eight percent of Michigan schools have cancelled eleven-man football.
“We have 38 kids at the 8th grade level, and 36 kids at the 7th grade level,” Coach Koenig said. “Participation is definitely on the up slope.”
However, Coach Koenig doesn’t anticipate this statistic affecting DHS anytime soon. With the newer coaches in place, the participation in the football program should return to normal and bring more hope to the win-deprived Dreadnaughts.
This article is written by Squall staffer Nick LeBlanc, special to WeLoveDexter.com.