Middle school football team approved

Team to draw from Great Brook, South Meadow, act as feeder for ConVal program

BENNINGTON — Middle schoolers from South Meadow and Great Brook schools will have a new opportunity to play football next year, after ConVal School Board members endorsed a proposal to field a booster-funded team at their meeting on Thursday.

The team will be for students at both middle schools, with practices held after school on the athletic fields at ConVal High School.

ConVal Athletic Director Mark Swasey said members of the ConVal football boosters club had met with organizers of the Monadnock Mountaineers youth football program, which offers non-school football and cheerleading teams for middle school age students in the ConVal, Mascenic, Jaffrey-Rindge and Hillsborough-Deering towns.

“The Mountaineers have been together for 20 years. They only serve a small number of our kids.” Swasey said. “It became clear that the boosters want to make more opportunities for our students.”

The Mountaineers program requires participants to pay a fee to play, and Swasey said having a school team would allow those who can’t afford that program to still play football.

“We need the Mountaineers organization to be strong,” Swasey said. “By having both programs, we’re creating opportunities for more kids. We’ll be stronger by working together.”

Nick Marks, president of the Board of Directors for the Mountaineers, said the group has agreed to support the plan.

“When this was first presented, we were less than ecstatic,” Marks said. “We are a pay-to-play program. There are some kids we will never be able to reach.”

Marks said the Mountaineer program has about 85 players and some of them would most likely choose to play for the ConVal school team. But because the Mountaineers draw players from a number of towns outside the ConVal region, they should still be able to field teams. Marks said he hoped the Mountaineers would eventually be able to play games against the ConVal middle school team.

Swasey and Marks said players would be able to choose which team they wanted to play for. This season, the Mountaineers went 8-1 en route to a Division II title at the 8th-grade level.

Swasey said the program would be entirely privately funded and would not add to the ConVal budget. Cheryl Jessie, a member of the ConVal football boosters club, said club members had voted to pay for the program, including equipment and coach’s pay, and would continue to support it until a middle school boosters club is formed to take over the responsibility for fundraising.

School Board representative Butch Estey of Peterborough said the team would be a good feeder program for the high school’s football team.

“Kids will know the system.” Estey said.

School board members voted, 8 to 1, to support the proposal.

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