With just two weeks to the start of the high school football season, low participation numbers are leaving many high schools scratching their heads about whether they should play this year. Bland County has already cancelled the school’s fall football season, thereby sending other schools on their schedule scrambling to find a replacement opponent.
Eastern Montgomery was able to call on another former Bland opponent in the form of Grayson County and slide right into that date. Now, Eastern Montgomery will play Grayson on October 4 and have an open date on September 21.
Auburn has yet to find a replacement for Bland who they were supposed to play on October 18.
Bland County athletic director Tyler Eastep said his school’s number of players had dropped below10. Initially, an online listing showed Bland’s roster had 29 players last season. The junior varsity season has also been cancelled.
This is the first for a varsity level team in southwest Virginia, but something that wasn’t unexpected. Both participation and overall school enrollment numbers have been on the decline for the past six years. In some cases, schools like Giles County last year did not field jayvee football teams. Auburn will not have one this year.
Eastep calls Bland’s decision unfortunate. For now, he can’t predict the 2020 season or whether his school will field a football team.
“We really don’t know yet. Hopefully participation will come up,” he said. The school, as a whole, has also seen a downward trend in enrollment with just 260 total students in 2018.
Bland is the third Virginia High School League football team to cancel its season in the last two years. Manassas Park and Charles City did not play last season. Park-View in Sterling and Bruton also played an abbreviated season because of low numbers.