by Ryan Olive
Football has been a vital part of the freshman experience at STH since the founding of the program.
Freshman football gives students a way to bond, make friends and learn the ropes.
This year 41 students will not get to take part in this experience, as cuts were made to the trim the freshmen football team roster down to a much slimmer 52 players.
Head football coach Tim Fitzpatrick and the coaching staff decided cuts were best for the team in the long run.
Fitzpatrick and company hope to restore dominance back to Hotze Field and believe that establishing a system that can be perfected over a four-year period will contribute to completing that task.
They plan to do so by keeping the same offensive and defensive schemes consistent for all three levels of football — freshmen, junior varsity and varsity.
“A benefit of the cuts is familiarity,” Keith Page, head freshmen coach and secondary coach for all three teams, said. “The players know us from freshman year and know what we expect of them.”
In past years, freshman football has been known to be a “social event” — a place where freshman can make friends as they begin at a new school.
Starting this year, the football team is taking an approach that may be considered unfriendly, relative to the previous scheme where everyone who came out made the team.
Some believe the cuts were unfair.
“I did not believe the tryouts were fair,” James Furrh, a freshman who did not make the team, said. “It was based solely on athletic ability.”
Others disagree, however.
“During the tryouts we had to catch passes, jump and do sprints,” said Cullen Squires, a freshman who did make the team. “I enjoyed the tryouts. I thought they were thorough and fair.”
No doubt, the cuts led to disgruntled parents pouring in emails, but Page said it comes with the territory of making the program better.
“We are trying to take the program to the next level,” Page said. “To do that we tried to find the freshmen who wanted to be out there and would eventually stick with the program [throughout high school].”
The coaches believe that by choosing players who are likely to continue to play football, a team atmosphere will form — one which they hope leads to better results on the field.
Another issue concerning the cuts involves safety.
If players in the National Football League get hurt on a regular basis, the kids who have never played will surely meet an injury over the course of the season.
Collectively, the coaches were concerned for player safety.
“One of the most important reasons for the cuts was safety,” Page said. “Many of the kids that try out have never played football before. It is difficult to schedule freshman teams for these kids.
“As a result, they end up having to play kids who are sophomores and maybe even juniors. That is a position we never want to throw our kids into,” Page said.
Beyond continuity and safety concerns, Fitzpatrick said that before the cuts, the coaches were understaffed.
“I understand the disappointment for some kids, but it also would not be fair to the coaches”, Fitzpatrick said. “Without the cuts, in the morning we would have had three coaches to one hundred players, which is not a great coaching environment.”
Additionally, it was difficult for the football program to provide equipment for almost 100 freshmen in addition to the junior varsity and varsity teams.
Fitzpatrick, Page and the rest of the staff believe the cuts will lead Eagle football back to its winning tradition.
The Eagles plan to mold the freshman into future leaders of a football team that can be called men of goodness, discipline and knowledge, both on and off the field.