For the third time in the past seven seasons, Wrenshall won’t field a varsity football team because of a lack of players.
Wrens coach Jeremy Zywicki said about 10 showed up Aug. 10 for the first day of practice. Wrenshall, 8-3 and a Section 5 Nine-Man finalist a year ago, was forced to pull the plug just like it did in 2009 and 2010.
It wasn’t a surprise to Zywicki or the 10 wanna-be participants, none of whom can go elsewhere to play varsity this fall.
“They kind of expected it,” Zywicki said. “It’s not a big secret who’s going to be coming out.”
The coach long had a hunch this was coming. Even during last year’s successful run to within a game of the state tournament, he predicted future struggles, especially because his 17-player roster consisted of nine seniors.
“It’s going to be extremely difficult to field a varsity team next year,” Zywicki said in September 2014. “In fact, I don’t know if we will be able to.”
Moving forward,the next step appears to be for Wrenshall and Carlton to form a co-op. The Bulldogs didn’t have a team in 2011 and played just five games in 2012 before rebounding. Recent participation woes for the two programs would seem to instigate a sense of urgency to merge forces.
Not the case, Zywicki said, despite years — decades even — of kicking the idea around.
“It’s a tough situation for the kids,” said Zywicki, who has coached the Wrens since 2008. “Really, the ones who are affected are the ones involved in the program. Wrenshall and Carlton have been trying to combine since the ’80s — that’s what I’ve heard; I haven’t been around long enough — and it just has not happened.
“To me, it would have been a very logical decision to combine.”
The school boards took a non-binding vote in February, with Wrenshall voting 3-1 in favor and Carlton voting 3-3, essentially killing the proposal.
The late cancellation leaves Wrenshall’s eight opponents facing the unfavorable prospect of playing seven-game schedules.
Zywicki doesn’t know what the future holds for the Wrens. Of the 10 players who showed up this year, none were seniors, so that helps. But the coach says shrinking class sizes is making it more and more challenging to get enough able bodies out each fall.
“We just don’t have the numbers to sustain competitive teams, and not only to sustain competitive teams but just to field a team,” he said.