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VUHS gets OK to join Mt. Abe football

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Principals’ Association’s Activities Standards Committee on Friday approved a cooperative agreement between Mount Abraham and Vergennes union high schools, paving the way for students from both schools to suit up for the Eagle football team next fall.
Both the Mount Abe and VUHS school boards had signed off on the agreement last fall on the recommendation of the schools’ athletic directors.
The Eagle football program has struggled to remain competitive since moving up to the 11-man game after the VPA eliminated the eight-man version a few years ago. The Eagles won back-to-back eight-man titles in 2003-2004, but have struggled with numbers since, and their high point was a three-win season two years ago.
Meanwhile, several Vergennes athletes have competed for Winooski High School’s program on a year-to-year, VPA-approved member-to-member agreement. That agreement can no longer continue now that VUHS and Mount Abe have a joint team, the VPA committee ruled last week.
Four VUHS seniors-to-be had hoped to continue to play with their Winooski teammates, but VUHS Athletic Director Pete Maneen said the VPA had concerns about granting a waiver for them.
One, he said, was that an essential provision of a member-to-member agreement is that a sending school does not offer the sport in question. Now that VUHS has a cooperative agreement with Mount Abe, Maneen said that is no longer the case.
“With us joining Mount Abe … Vergennes for next fall now has football,” Maneen said.
Maneen said VUHS officials were also concerned about the school’s students playing each other, and they have expressed concerns all along about students driving themselves to practice in Winooski. With the new agreement, VUHS will provide transportation to practices in Bristol.
That transportation and all other costs, totaling $5,000, will be funded by Friends of VUHS football. Maneen noted the agreement will not add to the VUHS budget.
“That’s very important to put in there,” he said.
Maneen also believes the boosters will be able to sustain that commitment.
“It seems like what they have now came together real quick. It seems like the interest is there,” he said. “If it goes well, I can see it going forward in the long run.”
VUHS officials do hope the school will have some coaching input, but that decision is up to Mount Abe officials and Coach Ernie Senecal.
“We’ve expressed an interest in having an opportunity if the personalities mesh,” Maneen said.
For at least the first year, the team will compete in Division III. The combined numbers of the two schools will mean that the VPA and the football committee, consisting of coaches, will look at whether the team should compete at a higher level in the future. That decision is typically not made on student population alone, however, but also takes into account numbers on a team and historic competitiveness of the program.
Regardless of the fine print and the exact direction of the program’s future, Maneen said he is thrilled for the expanded opportunity for student-athletes and the Vergennes area.
“Our community can really experience the excitement that comes with having a high school football program,” he said.

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