By Kyle Shaner
BRADFORD – The Cross County Conference voted to not play Bradford in varsity football this year, prompting the Railroaders to cancel their varsity season and move to a junior varsity slate for 2014.
The CCC voted 10-1 to not play Bradford in varsity football for concern of student safety, according to a press release from the league.
The Railroaders have had fewer than 20 high school football players this summer including zero seniors, which led to disputes among community members, coaches and school administrators about whether the team should proceed with a varsity season, according to documents obtained through a public records request. The CCC’s vote ultimately dictated Bradford’s decision.
“It’s the league’s decision to make,” Bradford Superintendent John Stekli said Friday morning. “We simply need to do the best we can for our kids.”
Bradford will do its best to recreate a varsity football experience this year, Stekli said, however it’s too early to tell who the Railroaders will play against and when they will play their games. It’s also unclear how many high school players the team will have, he said, although some have returned to the program since the announcement about the cancelation of the varsity season.
John Cruse will coach Bradford’s high school team, the school announced. He is a longtime coach, Stekli said, and was coaching the Bradford junior high team when former varsity coach Curtis Enis resigned on Aug. 4.
In his four years leading the Bradford football team, Enis was named the Ohio Division VI football coach of the year by The Associated Press twice – in 2010 and 2012. He was 18-23 as Bradford’s football coach, leading the Railroaders to an 8-2 record in 2012 for their first winning season since 1994 and first playoff appearance since 1982. The team went 0-10 last year.
Since Enis’ resignation – which emails obtained through a public records request indicate resulted from low numbers of players in the program and a desire to move to a junior varsity schedule, which Board of Education members opposed – Cruse has led the high school program, Stekli said.
Bradford wants to grow its football program and will evaluate the state of the team at the end of the season, Stekli said. The goal is to field a varsity team again, he said, but the focus is on this season and not what could happen in the future.
“We need to worry about this year before we worry about next year,” Stekli said.