CUMBERLAND — Two years after giving it another go, Bishop Walsh School announced on Friday it will not field a football team for the fall 2013 season because there are not enough students interested in playing.
The announcement was made by Principal Shelby Webb, Assistant Principal Ann Workmeister, Athletic Director Jim Zamagias and Head Football Coach Mike Allen in a statement released by the school.
“We simply do not have enough boys to field a team for the upcoming season,” Webb and Workmeister said in the statement. “The coaching staff has been diligent in opening the weight room and contacting players. However, our numbers are far short of what is needed to play this fall.”
Soon after a meeting the school hosted for interested players and parents, the fate of the program was determined.
“When last season ended we had 19 boys in the program who were freshmen, sophomores and juniors,” Zamagias said in the statement. “Since that time, five students have transferred to other schools and five others have decided not to play this fall.”
Allen, a veteran assistant coach at BW before assuming interim head coaching duties with Michael Fields for the final two games of the 2012 season, said, “I am so proud of the boys who have been working out to prepare for this season. This decision has been made even more difficult because of their dedication and commitment to the program.”
Bishop Walsh has been playing football since the school opened in 1966. Prior to that, LaSalle played football beginning in the 1920s.
In the school’s first season under legendary head coach Paul “Bubbles” Thompson, the Spartans went 8-1-1. The following season Bishop Walsh won the first of two City League championships by going 9-1. The only other City title came in 1978 under head coach Glenn Cross, who was the quarterback of the ’67 City champs, when the Spartans swept Allegany and Fort Hill for the second time.
There have been 15 head coaches in 47 years of Bishop Walsh football, who combined for a win-loss-tie record of 231-242-3. The late Thompson, over two stints as head coach (1966-’70 and ’73-’76), remains the winningest coach in school history with a mark of 63-23-2.
In six seasons spanning three terms, Gary Neus, the starting center on the ’67 City championship team, is the second-winningest coach with a 30-30 record. Neus coached the 1991 Spartans to a 9-1 record to tie the school record he and his ’67 teammates established for the most wins in a season. That mark was equaled two other times — in 2008 by the team coached by Mike Page, and last season when the Spartans went 7-1 under Geno Taylor and 2-0 under Allen and Fields.
Six times Bishop Walsh finished with eight wins in a season.
“We are so proud that for decades a school our size has continued to play football and shape the lives of so many young men,” said Webb. “Our community will feel this loss but we should all look with pride on what we accomplished for so long.”
In May of 2011 BW administrators strongly considered discontinuing the football program for the same reasons they are now — lack of players. But on June 2, 2011, School President and Acting Principal Sister Phyllis McNally, SSND, announced that sufficient interest had been shown by players, parents and alumni for the program to continue.
“The decision is we will have football,” Sister McNally said at the time “We’re hoping to have high school and middle school football, for we need to have middle school to continue the progression through the high school level.
“Football is a long-standing tradition at Bishop Walsh. It provides a wonderful balance between our students’ school schedule and playing. We’re going to try to get as many numbers involved as possible and we’re moving on with football.”
On Monday, June 6, 2011, Bishop Walsh hired Taylor as the head coach and the roster number grew to over 20 the past two seasons. The victory total increased as well, as the Spartans went 4-4 in Taylor’s first season and 9-1 last season.
Allen was appointed head football coach on a permanent basis on Feb. 28. In a March interview with the Times-News, he said he understood the challenge of securing enough players to field a football team at a small school such as Bishop Walsh, but was optimistic those numbers would be met for the coming season.
“We had the ‘interested’ meeting for players in grades eight through 11, and we had 20-plus at the meeting,” Allen said. “So before we even go into (offseason) workouts, we know we have enough kids to go into the season. (The 2010 season) we finished with 13 players, so 20 at BW is a good number, and we’re confident that number will increase before the first game.”
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org