Lack of numbers, safety concerns forces Panthers to cancel football season

With only 16 players on the practice field Tuesday, Pine Valley Central School was forced to make the difficult decision to cancel the upcoming football season.

The decision was reached based upon the lack of participation to meet a team roster as per Section 6 and safety concerns, according to a press release issued to the OBSERVER.

“We have a number of juniors and seniors and then a lot of eighth and ninth graders on the roster,” Pine Valley interim superintendent David Kurzawa said. “Having those underclassmen fill a spot against players who are seniors, it’s not a safe thing to do. With the limited number of students who came out, we realize if we do have injuries, which does happen, telling a ninth grader to start is not appropriate.”

The 2013 Panthers consisted of 30 players. The team had a rough season, going 0-8. This past June a survey was sent out to the student body and 29 players showed an interest in playing football this season. However, on Monday, less than half of that number showed up to practice, and only 16 players showed up Tuesday.

“Whatever happened between June and now, we don’t know,” Kurzawa said. “We need to analyze and find the dynamic of our student body and the change that occurred between June and now.”

At Wednesday’s Gowanda School board meeting, the board of education authorized superintendent James Klubek to execute a contract for athletic programs in the 2014-15 school year with Pine Valley.

Specifics of the contract were not available as of Wednesday night, but Kurzawa was happy to hear Gowanda’s school board took the first step in allowing Pine Valley’s athletes to join Gowanda’s football program.

“I am appreciative and thankful to the school board,” Kurzawa said. “It means the Pine Valley athletes will have the chance to continue playing football.”

For Kurzawa, it marks his first crisis as interim superintendent – a position he took over less than three weeks ago.

“In my position as interim superintendent, you take these problems as they come,” he said. “It’s unusual ending a football season. I think Pine Valley is a school district that has been a football community for many, many years. They were always high in athletics, especially in football. I think it’s a sad day when you make a decision to shut down the football program. In my job, you just work with everything you have and make it the best for the kids.”