From 49 to 23, there were only 15 or 16 sophomores at Valley Christian who were engaged enough in football to come up to practice every day.
Coach Mike Machado had no choice but to cut the junior varsity program this season, instead of bringing up those sophomores to help boost a depleted varsity squad.
“I waited as long as I could before making that decision,” Machado added. “But, at the end of the day, the statistics just weren’t going to be enough to bring that squad to the conclusion of the season.”
Valley wasn’t alone in cutting back on its football program this season.
After injuries and COVID-19 problems, Archbishop Riordan, a West Catholic Athletic League rival, will only field two teams this season. Its freshman/sophomore squad will not participate in Week 1 due to a lack of eligible players.
Riordan will have a freshman/sophomore team for the remaining non-league JV games on its schedule, then the sophomores will advance to the varsity squad for WCAL play, when the school will only field a varsity and a freshmen team, like Valley Christian did this year and Sacred Heart Cathedral before.
Riordan coach Mark Modeste stated, “With numbers at varsity and JV, it was nip and tuck for us.”
Football participation rates have been on the decline for years, and the impact of the epidemic on those statistics is one of the more intriguing topics coming into the fall season.
Valley Christian, according to Machado, will bounce back.
Before COVID-19 canceled the fall season, over 50 freshman had signed up. When football began in the spring, 23 players showed up for practice; by the autumn, that number had dropped to 15 or 16 players on a daily basis.
This year’s freshmen football turnout, though, is back to normal, according to Machado: 30 to 40 new faces.
“With freshman and JV, we’ll have a JV program next year,” Machado said. “We’re fortunate in that we have students that want to come here for school, football, and a variety of other reasons….” As a result, we obtain the data we require.”
Machado’s main concern is the departures from his varsity team during the last two years. Will Cuddie, an All-Bay Area utility player, moved to IMG Academy in Florida for his senior season, one of just a few key players to do so.
Before Machado called up the sophomores, the Warriors’ varsity roster numbered in the mid 30s; it currently stands at approximately 50. “But,” Machado added, “I would have loved for them to enjoy that JV season… They aren’t always as well-prepared for (varsity) as you would want.
Despite this, Valley Christian began the season at No. 6 in the Bay Area News Group Top 25 and is projected to compete for the WCAL title at the varsity level, thanks to its exceptional top-line talent.
Modeste believes his program’s results at Riordan are strong, but he believes the WCAL should permanently switch to a two-level approach.
Modeste stated, “Moving forward, two floors will be something for us in the near future.” “I really hope it’s a freshmen/sophomore team, not a freshman and varsity team….” If some sophomores are still in their freshmen abilities, you must be extremely cautious about where they play… As a result, we must be very aware of not just their age but also their competence. It’s not just a matter of numbers.”
Three of the WCAL’s eight schools will adopt the two-level format this fall and forego having a JV football team: Sacred Heart Cathedral, Riordan, and Valley, for the first time.