James Buchanan football officially leaves Mid Penn
On Wednesday morning, James Buchanan athletic director Larry Strawoet felt an overwhelming amount of support.
Recently, Strawoet, along with JB principal Rod Benedick, had made the difficult decision to request to the Mid Penn Conference board of directors to withdraw from the Rockets' conference football schedule.
That decision was approved nearly unanimously Wednesday morning by the conference membership and will go into effect for the 2017 season. Only Northern York voted against it, and Carlisle abstained.
"I was really proud of our athletic directors and their support today," Strawoet said. "I'm not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of guy. The biggest reason was the safety of our kids. We're just overmatched in games right now, and we're afraid of injury."
James Buchanan is currently in the midst of a 20-game losing streak and has managed just 23 victories in the last 20 years.
Some people are asking, why didn't we do this before?
"I think it's a great idea, and I wish they could've done it before my kids were seniors," said Shay Elkins, JB booster club president, mother of Colby Bradshaw and stepmother of Eric Elkins. "I've been a Team Mom for the football team for the last five years. I watch these boys work so hard all season long. To see them go and put 100 percent out there, and they're just overwhelmed, it's very difficult as a parent."
Like Strawoet, Elkins said a main concern of hers as a mother was injury. Bradshaw played five different positions in one game this season.
"As a mom, watching him tackling and trying to play at 100 percent, he can't keep up playing five positions," Elkins said. "He didn't get a break, and we can't compete size-wise. It's heart-wrenching, and it's scary to watch all of those kids on that field."
Moving to an independent schedule presents a serious set of challenges for James Buchanan, and no one is expecting this to be a walk in the park, especially early on.
"Talking with other programs that have done this, it seems to be somewhat of a rejuvenation for their programs," said JB assistant coach Jason Ellis, father of junior Jackson Ellis. "Maybe some wins will get the kids to come out. My son has already told me kids are saying that they are looking to come out because of this decision."
That seems to be the biggest problem for James Buchanan - simply numbers. And this decision may not change that immediately, but the community rallying around the Rockets is hoping with time, it'll be obvious this was the right decision.
"I just think it gives the kids a chance, gives us some hope," said Todd Stoner, former player and current volunteer coach. "It's a great group of kids, but the whole community feels the frustration of struggling to get kids to come out and to put a good product on the field. This gives us something to regenerate enthusiasm. We've been on this path where you don't see a light at the end of the tunnel."
Finally that light is starting to shine through.