The Carlton and Wrenshall school boards have voted to move forward with a proposed cooperative football team, though the Wrenshall board appeared more enthusiastic.
The Wrenshall board offered its support when it voted to approve the paired team in principle during its meeting Monday, April 15. The Carlton board, however, directed its administration to work with Wrenshall to develop an agreement during its meeting the same night.
Both boards would then need to vote again on the agreement hammered out between the two schools.
The two programs have different reasons for pursuing a co-op. 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, however, has up to 25 players returning in 2019, but the numbers for the Bulldogs at the junior high level are much lower.
Wrenshall won't be able to field a varsity team in 2019 without a pairing and Carlton will not 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 work with the Minnesota State High School League to schedule at least one 11-man game to full a hole in its schedule. Carlton's schedule includes a game with Wrenshall, but that game won't happen since Wrenshall won't have a team without a co-op with Carlton.
The concern for Carlton School Board members and parents is the transition to 11-man football. Board Chair LaRae Lehto said the board received emails from parents who supported the decision and those who are opposed.
Carlton School Board member Tim Hagenah is concerned about the sustainability of the program at the 11-man level and the small number of projected players for Carlton at the junior high level.
"There's parent support; there's student support here. I've always said I would do what's right for the kids - kids come first," Hagenah said. "I am a little disappointed in our coaching staff that says this is going to be an easy transition from 9-man to 11."
Another concern for Hagenah and other board members is the cost of a paired team. In 2018, the district budgeted $23,128. The football program needs new jerseys for 2019 whether there is a paired team or not.
Activities Director Ben Midge said the estimated cost is $13,000 for 100 jerseys - 50 home and 50 away - as well as 50 pairs of pants. The costs would be evenly split between the two districts, according to preliminary plans drawn up by Midge and Wrenshall Activities Director Jeremy Zywicki. That could potentially save both districts money even with the purchase of the jerseys.
The districts would need to replace the decals on the helmets, but the co-op team would not require replacement of all helmets. Midge told the board the team typically replaces six to 10 helmets each season at a cost of $250-$300 and reconditions another 10 at $45 each.