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Prep football preview: Western Plains fighting the numbers crunch

9/4/2014

By NICK SCHWIEN

By NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net

RANSOM -- The groundwork for the 2014 football season began long before the first date of practice for Western Plains High School.

In fact, it started months earlier, when school officials realized the numbers to support an eight-man football team probably weren't going to be readily available.

So Superintendent Roger Stumpf and other school officials began looking at what could be done to offer football for their students.

"We had something in place," he said. "We did an exhaustive survey of different options, what the kids would do and wouldn't do. We came up with the most tolerable solution. We couldn't field an eight-man team confidently. We signed a competitive agreement with Ness City to play JV football with them there. We only had one senior boy, and playing JV football wasn't too exciting."

Hence, Western Plains won't field a football team this season, and the school won't have any students participating in football at any school.

Ness City, if the school would have added Western Plains' enrollment numbers for varsity football, would have been been bumped back to 11-man by the standards set by the Kansas State High School Activities Association.

For the fall sports season, the Bobcats will find other avenues to celebrate homecoming and rely on a successful volleyball program to hinge school pride. That also includes solid music, FFA and forensics programs, as well as a perennial power scholars bowl program that has qualified for state the last several years.

There just won't be any Friday Night Lights -- for this season.

"Our goal is not to make professional football players," Stumpf said. "It's to educate kids. We are here to educate kids."

Stumpf said the school is looking into the possibility of fielding a six-man football team in the future. That could prove to be a worthwhile venture.

Weskan, a school located near the Colorado border in far western Kansas, wasn't immune to the numbers crunch this year either. The Coyotes will focus their efforts on six-man football this year and play a total of five games.

Weskan tried to combine with nearby Sharon Springs-Wallace County for the season, only to have the timing not work out in their favor, head coach Marc Cowles said.

"Everybody has been very open to what our plan has been and what was presented to them," Cowles said.

"We talked to the boys first. We have two seniors, and we told them about the possible cooperative agreement. Then it didn't go through. ... They just wanted to play."

Weskan, which made the state playoffs a year ago, will play six-man games against Tribune-Greeley County, Grainfield-Wheatland-Grinnell, Bird City-Cheylin, Rexford-Golden Plains and Triplains-Brewster.

Cowles is hopeful KSHSAA will look into the possibility of adding a six-man division in the near future for some schools.

"In the western part of the state, we need KSHSAA to make some exceptions," Cowles said. "If you can get 24 teams to commit to six-man football, they will add it. Hopefully with some coverage and recognition of stories about it, it will help out."

Weskan and Western Plains both grew in enrollment this fall in the freshman through senior ranks.

And while the Bobcats won't be playing football this fall, Stumpf said opportunities still will be there for the students.

"We do a bang-up job with what we have," he said. "You don't see it on the field, and that's been our hardship. Sports are so evident in the public, and not all the other good things we are doing."