After a season of low participation on its varsity football team, Anacortes High School is taking next season off at the varsity level, according to Anacortes High School Athletic Director Erik Titus.

The Seahawks varsity team from the current school year never had a game where more than 18 students suited up. Most players took the field both on offense and defense, meaning they played more, were injured more often and were exhausted by the end of each game. That affected practice and the general well-being of the players, coach Chris Hunter said in October. The team ended with a record of 0-8.

Only a handful of upperclassmen were expected to try out for the varsity squad for the coming year, meaning gaps would be filled with smaller underclassmen. That could be dangerous, Titus said.

“A lock of numbers in our junior and senior players is causing us to move in that direction,” he said.

The school will still have junior varsity and C teams, where most of the young players would end up anyway, but it is taking a year off from its varsity program.

The handful of seniors who would have played varsity will still get a chance to play — but in a Mount Vernon Bulldogs jersey.

AHS is partnering with the Mount Vernon School District to give those athletes a chance to play, Titus said.

Declining numbers on the football field isn’t just an Anacortes issue, Titus said. Programs across the region and even the country are seeing the downward trend.

Some parents and players are concerned with safety. Others are focusing on other sports. Other fall sports, like boys tennis and cross country, are growing in popularity.

Smaller football teams across the country are working to find solutions to make the sport safer.

Hunter will stay on next year to lead the program, Titus said. Some coaching positions may be eliminated for the year, though, depending on how many kids try out.

Another impact of the change is potentially losing what Titus called the “Friday night experience.” That’s where community members, players and students can come together to watch the game. It’s a time that brings people together, Titus said. It also means a place for the band and the cheerleaders to perform.

Traditionally, the junior varsity team plays on Monday nights and the C team plays on Thursday nights. So, Titus started talking to other programs.

While the official schedule won’t be released until August, three schools have already signed on and committed to play the Anacortes JV team on Friday nights.

“We will still get that Friday night experience, just at a lower level of play,” Titus said.

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