GREENE, Iowa -- North Butler High School Football couldn't have imagined a better first two weeks, "2-0 was a great start for us. We were really excited about it," said head coach Travis Miller. The will to win at North Butler high school is already there. "We were a whole new team this year, attitude was totally different," said Senior Brandon Trees. The problem is, now the number of players available just isn't enough. Coach Miller said, "One of our guys broke his leg, we had a starting running back go down and another lineman go down with a knee injury, ankle injury and unfortunately those piled up."
Beginning the season with around thirty players, injuries forced them to forfeit football games in back to back weeks. Trees says, It's a new experience. It's pretty sad this is what it had to come to but I know all the players want to play." With just fourteen players a week ago, strep throat dropped that number down to just ten. "We had guys just yesterday that were diagnosed with strep throat so it's still finding its way through," said Miller. He added, "With the numbers we've had it's been hard to even hit our own guys. We are almost nervous to put them in a situation where we'd get more guys injured."
The decision for Superintendent Joel Foster wasn't easy but necessary. "Bottom line is that I have be able to sleep at night and live with that decision I make. If is a put fourteen kids out there and left with less than eleven, I would have trouble living with myself."
North Butler isn't alone in changing Friday night lights into Friday night forfeits because of low numbers. Foster said, "It's not just isolated to rural Iowa, last year Waterloo East and Waterloo Columbus both forfeited games at the end of the year."
Iowa High School Athletic Association Assistant Executive Director Todd Tharp acknowledges the shortage of players but believes outside factors are contributing. "Football is as safe as it has ever been and it does not help when the media sensationalizes illegal hits on their sports shows and headlines NFL players who have CTE."
Heading into week five there have been four schools that forfeited games. A year ago at this time there were just two. While it's just a small portion of total games, it is increasing in frequency. Miller said, "It's unfortunate, it's a bad situation for football and a bad situation in our state right now"
Trees said that week six looks promising for the Bearcats to restore their roar. "These two forfeits make us want to play even more and I think we are getting real anxious to get back into the field."
The IHSAA hopes to find ways to partner with Iowa high schools and help recruit more students for football in the coming years.
Other teams that have forfeited games as of 9/22 were Starmont, Montezuma and Elkader Central (8-Man). Starmont and North Butler have now Forfeited two games each.