Low participation in football at Carlton and Wrenshall schools has prompted the districts to consider a potential cooperative team for 2019.

Carlton will host an informational community meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, in the Carlton High School library.

The two schools are mulling a cooperative team for different reasons.

Wrenshall has a maximum of 10 players returning this fall to its varsity team, which was forced to suspend its play in mid-season 2018 for the third time in five years.

Carlton had 29 players in 2018. Activities Director Ben Midge said the Bulldogs have up to 25 players returning in 2018. The Carlton numbers at the junior high level, however, are much lower than at Wrenshall.

"We have the need at junior high right now," Midge said. "They need the help at varsity. They're in better shape at the lower grades."

According to Midge, Wrenshall won't be able to field a varsity team in 2019 without a pairing and Carlton won't have a junior high team.

A cooperative team would be forced to play 11-man football as part of Section 7A in the playoffs, while it would play most of its games at the 9-man level.

Carlton would be the host school for the team, according to plans discussed with Carlton's Extracurricular Activities Committee last week.

Carlton's regular season schedule is already set, Midge said, but they are working with the Minnesota State High School League to schedule at least one 11-man game to fill a hole in Carlton's schedule.

The Carlton regular season schedule includes a game with Wrenshall, but that game won't happen since Wrenshall won't have a team without a co-op in 2019. Midge hopes they can find a Class A team with its own hole so they can have at least one game at the 11-man level before playoffs begin.

The combined population of Carlton and Wrenshall high schools - the main factor when determining class - is estimated to be 166 students. The largest school in Section 7A is Barnum, which just moved down from Class AA with 209 students, and the smallest is Blackduck with 154 students.

The teams would split the costs for a shared team down the middle, Midge said, which would save Carlton money right away. The school needs to purchase new uniforms for 2019 regardless of an agreement with Wrenshall - a $13,000 cost for a school looking at cutting costs in the face of another budget deficit next year.

Midge said Carlton's meeting is purely informational and any cooperative team would have to be approved by the Carlton and Wrenshall school boards.

"We want to let them know where we're at and give them an opportunity to ask questions," he said.

Wrenshall Activities Director Jeremy Zywicki didn't respond to calls regarding the Wren program.