Hinsdale Central's varsity football program won't be suspended as first feared, but the Bobcats may have to forfeit their Division VIII season opener Sept. 5 at Little Valley, according to coach Rob Blendinger.
The immediate future of the program, long a small-school powerhouse, seemed in doubt because there were less than the required number of eligible players (18) for the opening game. Under New York State rules a team can have no fewer than 18 players available to play and those players must have attended a minimum of 15 practices in order to play.
Hinsdale figured to fall short on both counts with only about 14 or 15 players eligible for the first game. Thirty-six boys signed up for football at the school, but only 21 reported to Blendinger last week for the start of preseason practice. Fewer than that attended some practices last week.
"Things have brightened a bit. Now we have 21 kids and a few more are coming out tomorrow," said Blendinger, a Canisius College graduate in his first year at the school. He was an assistant coach at Cuba-Rushford last year.
The situation was discussed at a meeting Monday morning with Superintendent of Schools Ronald DeCarli and athletic director William Bathurst.
"It looks like we may have to forfeit that first game and then run everything from there," Blendinger said.
"That's our game plan," DeCarli said. "We're planning on having a full program and we'll see what develops."
"We've always had a strong football team, but no matter whether it's been a year the team has gone to Rich Stadium (for the Section VI finals) or not, there's always been a numbers problem," Blendinger said.
Hinsdale has the smallest enrollment among the Division VIII schools in the Section VI Football Federation. There are 10 divisions. Also, the school is in its second year of varsity soccer which has siphoned off a few football candidates.
According to DeCarli there are approximately 80 boys in grades 9-12 at the school.
Hinsdale listed 29 players on its roster in 1997 but finished the season with 23, 13 of them seniors. The season before, it listed 30 players on its roster.
The Bobcats were 7-3 last year under coach Danny Brooks and in playoff contention until late in the season. In 1996, Hinsdale made the playoffs with an 8-0 regular season record, but lost to Randolph in the opening round Sectional play.
Brooks gave up the job in order to complete work on his degree.
Hinsdale, which is just east of Olean on Western New York's Southern Tier, won successive Section VI Class D titles at Rich Stadium in 1989 and 1990 under coach Rod Rohl, one of the winningest coaches in WNY history. Rohl is now retired.