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Joint football team gets Bristol board OK

BRISTOL — Board members at Mount Abraham Union High School on Tuesday gave their OK to a brewing plan that would let students from Mount Abe and Vergennes Union High School suit up next fall for a cooperative football team.
If the agreement wins approval from the Vermont Principals’ Association, the body that governs cooperative sports agreements, students from the two schools could suit up on a single team.
If that comes to pass, the plan would be reviewed annually by both high schools, and either school could choose each year to opt out of the agreement.
The co-athletic directors at Mount Abe, Jeff and Mary Stetson, expressed their enthusiasm for the plan to the board in a brief discussion at the Tuesday evening meeting.
The plan makes sense for both schools, Jeff Stetson said. Vergennes athletes previously have driven to Winooski High School to play under a member-to-member agreement, and VUHS school administrators have expressed concerns about students making the long drive in private cars. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ football program has struggled to field teams with enough players to fully compete, and almost all of the student athletes in the program have had to play both offense and defense against much larger teams.
The Mount Abe athletic directors also expressed concerns about the safety of MAUHS athletes, should the team continue on its own. Mary Stetson pointed out that the program’s small numbers meant younger players, who typically would have had time to develop on a junior varsity team, were forced to step up in varsity games against much older students.
In a memo to the school board, the athletic directors sketched out some of the plans for the cooperative team. Those plans are still coming together as the schools eye a formal agreement. The students would play under the name of the Mount Abraham Eagles, and would practice and play at Mount Abe’s fields.
As many as 15 students from Vergennes could be joining the team, and would be bused over from the Little City. Boosters for the Vergennes players would cover the cost of that transportation, and Vergennes players would be supervised by an adult who could, potentially, help with practice and game duties at Mount Abe. The boosters for the Vergennes football program would also cover a $5,000 fee to Mount Abe for the first year of the cooperative team to help defray costs.
Students would compete openly for playing time on both the junior varsity and varsity squads, and the football program would not make any cuts.
“Currently Vergennes does not have the numbers or resources to start its own program and Mount Abraham is struggling to survive,” the Stetsons wrote in the memo. “In our brief football history at Mount Abraham the sport has become an important part of our community. We think a cooperative team is our best chance at keeping it a viable sport here at Mount Abraham while providing a positive experience for the Vergennes athletes.”
The VPA will likely consider the proposed cooperative team at its Feb. 4 and 5 meetings. If approved, the joint team would begin practice in August.

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