WEST MIDDLESEX, Pa. (WKBN) – A question is being asked in Mercer County, will Sharpsville and West Middlesex merge their football programs?
The question was brought up during Wednesday night’s school board meeting. The choice is to basically join forces or not have a football team.
West Middlesex’s school board voted unanimously to merge their football team with the Sharpsville Blue Devils.
This is only the first step in building their co-op, though, and not everyone who was at the meeting loves the idea.
“I would rather play at home for the Big Red than the Sharpsville Blue Devils,” said freshman football player Colton Spangler.
Football players at the meeting said they’d rather wear red this year.
“My dad played for West Middlesex. He did not like Sharpsville. It’s just a regoing rivalry,” Spangler said.
But they’ll wear blue if they have to.
“It’s not that I don’t want to play for Sharpsville. It’s not the ideal situation,” Spangler said.
The first game of the season is less than a month away. Only a handful of athletes have been showing up to practice.
“I have seven guys at practice. I’ve had, at the most, in two days out of the 85/86 practices we’ve had, we’ve had 13 kids,” said West Middlesex head football coach Mark Means.
It’s a common trend across Pennsylvania. Since 2016, the football program at West Middlesex has consistently seen fewer athletes showing up to play.
“It’s beyond the point now of waiting one more week. One more week is not going to help,” Means said.
COVID-19 has made player turnout even worse.
“When you take a year off of doing nothing, I don’t care who you are, it’s very difficult to start the wheels turning again in the right direction,” Means said.
Which is why the co-op is the next best option for students who still want to play football.
“Let’s make Big Red proud. Go to Sharpsville and show them how it’s done,” said a West Middlesex school board member. “This is going to be the wave of the future. If you just look around and see the numbers, we are not the only school struggling with numbers.”
So even though the jerseys might look different this year…
“That’s where I grew up — out in that practice field. I’d hate to see it go,” Spangler said.
The students wearing them still get an opportunity to play.
“I’ve played football since I was 7 years old. Walking down that hill, I don’t want to see it go anywhere. I bleed red and white and this breaks my heart that it’s come to this, but it’s the right thing to do for the kids,” Means said.
On Thursday, Sharpsville’s school board will vote on the merger. If they vote yes, then the two schools will still need to hammer out a lot of details. Then they will need the approval of District 10 and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.