Eden’s football season is over before it even started, as the school announced Tuesday it will not field a varsity team in 2015 due to low numbers.
Addressing the matter via Twitter, Eden Athletic Director Marisa Fallacaro said that the numbers for modified and junior varsity remain strong and that Eden plans to field a varsity team again in 2016.
Section VI requires a minimum of 16 players. Eden had 10 players, including just three seniors, for varsity, according to coach Chuck Tilley.
“I am very disappointed by the loss of this season, but I am not very surprised,” Tilley told The News via email. “We have been living dangerously for years now.
“Back in May, I had 19 kids signed up. That’s a small number, but pretty typical for us. Unfortunately we had 4 kids transfer (non-football reasons). We also had one of our kids break his leg back in March. His recovery did not go well and will not be playing football. We also had a couple of kids who had concussions in their winter and spring sports and can’t get medical clearance. We also had one of our better kids decide to focus on his spring sport.”
According to Section VI Chairman Ken Stoldt, the Raiders have at least 20 players on junior varsity and at least 20 more on modified, which does bode well for the varsity program’s future.
Tilley said most of the junior varsity players weren’t ready for varsity this season. “I felt that it would be unsafe to bring them up,” he said.
Stoldt said he first heard of Eden possibly dropping football on Friday and received official notice on Monday.
How will this impact the schedule for Class B South teams and others slated to play Eden?
“There’s not much we can do,” Stoldt said. “We will try to fill in games best we can. We’re not sure where we’ll be able to get those games. … We will fill as many vacancies as best we can.”
Stoldt said he has sent emails to teams in and out of state to see if any have openings on their schedules.
Eden is in the second year of a football merger with North Collins. An additional merger would be necessary for Eden to accommodate students seeking to play varsity this season.
“That has not been brought to me,” Stoldt said. “That would be up the Section Athletic Council. That would be up to the Athletic Council or Executive Committee to make that decision. Eden would have to apply for an emergency merger with somebody.
“They would have to get both boards of education to say yes and then get their paperwork into the section,” Stoldt continued. “And then (Section VI Executive Director) Timm Slade would have to call his executive committee together to make a decision.”
Last season, Pine Valley and Gowanda were allowed to merge days into the season after PV failed to have the minimum number of players required by the state at opening practices.
The low turnout the past four seasons is why Tilley pushed for the merger with North Collins last season. There are 13 players from North Collins with the program, of which nine are on the modified team.
Last year was the first in Tilley’s six seasons as coach that Eden failed to make the postseason, finishing 1-7. The Raiders, a run-first team, posted winning records in his other seasons and made a Section VI semifinal appearance in 2013. In 2009, the Raiders posted a 9-1 record and lost in the sectional final to defending and eventual Class C state champion Southwestern.
Tilley’s record with Eden is 34-20.
He said the plan is for him to return as head coach next season. For now, he stepped down as a paid coach so that his assistants could keep their positions. He said he plans to work with the junior varsity and modified teams, but on a much smaller scale.