NORTH FOND DU LAC (WLUK) -- The North Fond du Lac football team has struggled to find the win column the past three seasons, having totaled just one win, but that never took away the players' desire to play.
However, their ability to play this season was taken away this week when the school decided to cancel the season due to safety concerns.
"We had a total of 13 upperclassmen that would've ultimately been able to play varsity football and basically playing both sides of the ball, special teams included in that, going non-stop," coach Todd Whittaker said. "One of those kids goes down it's probably a freshman that's going to be coming in to play a varsity football game. Ultimately, the decision was solely based on safety of all the players involved."
Nine seniors will not be able to play their final year of high school football and they can't transfer because they would have to sit out one year, per WIAA rule, before becoming eligible. North Fond du Lac will have a JV2 team that Whittaker hopes will compete on Friday nights.
"Obviously for the seniors it's difficult," Whittaker said. "They're trying to wrap their head around it as far as what happened, what is this all about"
This is the second cancellation for North Fond du Lac as in 2005 the Orioles canceled their season only to return the following season.
Whittaker knew last weekend the season was going to be canceled and he told the team Monday. He said he didn't get much sleep prior to the meeting with the players but is sleeping better now knowing younger players won't be subject to difficult circumstances.
"We looked at all options before we had to come up with this decision," Whittaker said. "We looked at co-oping, other options. Like I said we went and talked to kids that didn't come out, so this was really the last resort that we had."
Whittaker will help out coaching at the lower levels this season and his big focus is on the youth programs. He knows that's the future of the program.
"It's a great opportunity for us now," he said. "We are really dedicating a lot of time and energy into the youth level, the middle school level to try to keep those numbers up so we don't have to do this again."
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay