Riverdale Cancels Next College Football Season – Shaw Local

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PORT BYRON — With just seven varsity athletes slated to return to their college football team, the Riverdale Rams have canceled their upcoming season.

In a July 27 letter to Port Byron School District households written by Superintendent Josh Temple, Principal Keith Stewart and Athletic Director and Head Coach Guy Dierikx, the high school “has exhausted every possible avenue to maintain the program.” , indicates the letter. “At this time, none of these avenues are possible for the 2022 college season.”

The program has enough players to field a junior varsity team, made up of players from each of the four grade levels. The district, whose high school had 305 students enrolled in the last school year, felt the safety of players currently in the program was a concern for competition at the college level, where students are typically juniors and seniors. Current juniors and seniors are eligible to play at the junior varsity level, a situation not possible at larger Illinois schools.

“We do not take this decision lightly and understand the impact this will have on our student-athletes and our community,” the letter continues. “However, our current roster of seven varsity athletes has led us to make this difficult decision.”

High school football attendance numbers have declined nationally since a peak of 1.1 million students played in the 2008-09 school year, with the current number estimated at just over one million, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Small rural schools are particularly affected by low attendance. Ashton-Franklin Center and West Carroll high schools are among those in Illinois within 50 miles of Port Byron that have canceled varsity seasons. West Carroll played a junior varsity program in the fall of 2021 due to low numbers, but plans to field a varsity team this season. In the spring of 2021, the AFC transitioned to 8-a-side football, which has been a staple of small rural schools in Iowa for decades, and has recently resumed in Illinois.

“As a school district, we believe it is in the safety interests of all of our student-athletes not to play on a varsity schedule,” according to the letter. “Once again, this is a difficult decision for many coaches and administrators across the country as school sports attendance numbers have declined, particularly in the wake of the COVID pandemic.”

Riverdale’s last winning season was in 2011, when the Rams went 6-4 under coach Nick Schroder; the university program is 15-70 since. Riverdale finished 1-8 in 2021, with the only win coming in Week 9, 28-14 at home to Sherrard. The Rams’ absence from the Three Rivers football schedule is the first such occurrence since 2004, when the River Valley Co-op based at Midland High School in Varna canceled its college season.

The cancellation of Riverdale’s college program forces its opponents to find replacements. The Rams were scheduled to play, starting week one of the season, at home vs. Bureau Valley, at Mendota, at home vs. Rockridge, at Orion, at home vs. St. Bede, at home vs. Erie-Prophetstown, at Monmouth-Roseville , at home against Morrison, then to Sherrard to conclude the regular season. All but the Bureau Valley, Mendota and St. Bede games are Three Rivers Rock Division games.

The first official day of university training was scheduled for August 8.

Depending on the situations of many junior colleges at their opposing schools, the Rams JV schedule may see some changes. The school is organizing a schedule in the coming weeks. Additionally, due to a growing shortage of officials, the ability to schedule junior varsity games became difficult, and games could be scheduled any day of the week.

Participation in the Rams’ feeder football program for its junior high students remains stable, according to the letter.

“We will continue to play a JV schedule in hopes of developing our athletes by giving them the opportunity to participate,” the letter concludes. “We are working on a modified schedule, and we ask for your patience and flexibility as we work with several area schools to create a new schedule.”

Keep watching this story for updates.

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