Author: Will N
12 November 2017
The Chargers football team entered the 2017 season with winning on their minds. The team was determined to build upon a 2016 season that saw the Chargers play to a 6-4 record and a FHSAA Sunshine State tournament bid.
That being said, they knew they faced an uphill climb. With seven graduating seniors, two pre-season injuries, and a transfer, the Chargers saw their roster dwindle to a mere nineteen players for the 2017 season opener against Seffner Christian. In that game, the team’s roster took another hit with month-long injuries to running back Orrin F and quarterback Paul G. Nonetheless, the team remained poised and competitive.
However, with all positives come negatives – numerous players began playing offense, defense, and special teams. Players like fullback RJ A embraced their busy workload: “It motivates me to work harder. I know it makes you tired, but you have to keep pushing.”
Given the circumstances, the team managed a respectable 2-6 record, highlighted by a win at Fort Myers Gateway Charter. However, the team’s honorable effort was overshadowed by a growing injury concern stemming from a limited roster. Players were leaving limbs (mainly arms and legs) in more vulnerable positions due to sheer exhaustion in the second half.
Additionally, after these injuries had occurred, some players elected to stay in the game, knowing that the bench had only four or five guys.
Shorecrest Athletic Director Jeff Raab acknowledged the spike of injuries in the 2017 season. “We had a rough year injury-wise,” Mr. Raab said. “However, we have put into place additional measures to prevent further injury and are following all the FHSAA training rules.”
Mr. Raab cited concussion testing and full-pad practice rules as two areas in which the team took extra precaution. Still, some rumblings about dropping to an eight-man football team have arose, but they have been quickly quieted by a general disinterest from players and administrators.
“I strongly dislike it,” Ayers commented. “If there is a smaller line, then it is just not as exciting.”
“We have talked about the next level (8-man football),” said Mr. Raab, “but we do not believe our program is fit for that. We are focused on finding ways to increase numbers.”
In doing so, he brings up a key point: how do we increase participation?
Well, “it starts with the players,” says Raab, “The first point of contact should come from the kids playing football right now.” The school’s administration has also helped by forming a football committee that both players and coaches can use to encourage participation.
Furthermore, Raab says that the school is focused on building the Middle School football program. With a new coach and improved team mentality, the Athletic Department hopes to build the Middle School program into an enjoyable and developmental experience for the players. Mr. Raab assured The Chronicle that “If the current plan continues, numbers in the Middle School will increase.”
Even with more participation, there will always be concerns about the safety of high school football in general. Dr. Hamilton, the Upper School’s counselor and AP Psychology teacher, acknowledged the risk of injury, but said that “psychologically, if players can develop a sense of confidence, get a good night’s rest, and condition their body, they will reduce their risk of injury.”
Some, like RJ, rebuke the risk, calling it a “stereotype.” Recently, a study done by Dr. Wellington Hsu of the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine found that girls soccer had the highest per-capita rate of concussions in youth sports, not football. Adamantly, RJ said, “There is no reason parents should be letting kids play other sports and not football.”
Whether the team’s star fullback is right or wrong, nobody knows, but one thing is for certain – the Shorecrest 11-man football team will play on.