FRAZEE, Minn.-Last week, Frazee (Minn.) High School athletic director Nick Courneya, who used to coach varsity football, went out to football practice for the Hornets. He saw a sophomore quarterback handing the ball off and throwing to freshmen.
On Tuesday, Aug. 22, nine days before Frazee is supposed to host Perham to open the football season, the Hornets had a team meeting in which Courneya explained to them why the decision was made to forfeit this season.
"With low numbers of participants, especially in the upper grades, we are unable to put our players in a position to safely start and finish a varsity football game," Courneya said. "The safety of our players and the future of the program is collectively the most important part of the 2017 campaign."
Frazee currently has one senior, who is sidelined because of a knee injury. They have six juniors, two of whom can't play due to eligibility issues because of open enrollment. The remaining 23 players are all freshmen and sophomores, only one who has regular varsity experience.
"We laid out to the team that we had 30 guys here and we're proud of them, but we're facing the fact we have a tough schedule, facing Perham and Barnesville to start off," Courneya said. "It's not a good situation for us. We as coaches and myself as AD are making the recommendation to do that to help you guys to grow and mature into next year, so we're more mature and physically ready to play a varsity schedule."
Courneya said the Hornets will go through each week and work with opposing teams to play a game they feel is safe for the team, while at the same time providing experience for both teams.
"We communicated with several teams that have been in that situation and are working through it and still working through it," Courneya said. "Out of fairness to a lot of schools, we looked to forfeit our schedule with the intent to work with each team on a week-to-week basis to alternate the game a little bit and provide a good opportunity and have fun and our imposing team can get varsity experience."
Frazee has never won a state title and has one section championship in 1990. The Hornets are coming off a 1-8 season in which three losses came by a combined 10 points. They played in the Class 2A, Section 8 championship game in 2014, losing to Hawley and finishing 8-3.
Losing one senior to graduation, the hope is for Frazee varsity football to be back next season.
"We'll be back. That was what we really wanted to lay out," Courneya said. "Yes, we have forfeited our games, but our goal is to play as much of a varsity game as we can Friday nights. We may be able to play four quarters of a varsity game against some teams and some teams maybe only one or two."