By Rishi Nachnani
How often does Novato High School make it on to ESPN? The answer is once. The varsity football team has managed to field a team, despite a challenging and controversial offseason. For a small period of time, it looked as if Hornets football would not exist this season, due to a disappointing summer turnout, sometimes as small as 5 players. The news of a cancelled season spread quickly on local news stations, and even found its way to national television.
Scott Van Pelt, a popular SportsCenter anchor, shed some light on the situation.
“Just a decade ago, [Novato football] won the state title, and just 3 years ago, they were co-champions of the Marin County Athletic League,” Van Pelt announced on ESPN. “That’s an awfully quick pivot, from being really good to not caring enough to show up.”
On July 31, the Marin IJ reported that Novato High would be dropping varsity football, with approval from the league. Prior to that report, former Novato varsity football head coach Jason Searle officially resigned on July 25. This announcement caught many people off guard.
“I was just looking to spend more time with my family,” Searle explained. “It was a situation where my kids are 3 years and 10 months old now, and being able to spend more than an hour a day with them was more important.”
There are several reasons why capable athletes at Novato High are not coming out for football, from the huge time commitment to the fear of injuries and concussions. The summer workload and three-hour practices take a toll on these student athletes. Additionally, severe injuries are very common in football, especially huge hits to the head.
“Because of the concussion issues and the way that things are changing as far as how people are diagnosing concussions, the knowledge that we’re getting about CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and the effects on people who play the game for a long time all factor in,” Searle added.
These reasons contributed to the low summer turnout, but the committed players who did show up always kept their faith in the program.
“It was just surreal. I didn’t think we wouldn’t have a team and we ended up getting one,” senior captain Colton Carry said. “If we didn’t have a team, I might have transferred schools. It’s my senior year, I’m going to play football.”
The current roster features only 26 kids, which can create fatigue as some players are having to play offense, defense, and special teams. These struggles have lead to a rough 0-6 start to the new season. The Hornets face Justin Siena tonight in Napa at 7 p.m.