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Prep Football: RCW opponent cancels season

MOORHEAD—Due to low numbers and fearing for the safety of its younger players, Park Christian High School is canceling its varsity football season.

Park Christian, which lost its first two games this season, has 15 players—with only three seniors, one junior and one sophomore. The rest are freshmen and eighth-graders.

"There is a big difference between an eighth-grader and a senior," said Park Christian athletic director Kurt Motschenbacher, whose football team was scheduled to host Renville County West on Friday.

Coincidentally, RCW almost folded its program five years ago because of dwindling numbers and player safety concerns. The Jaguars forfeited their final three games of the 2010 season after starting 0-4 and being outscored 228-14.

The team focused on a junior varsity schedule and switched to 9-man football after that season. While winning just two varsity games in its first three seasons in 9-man, the Jaguars were 8-3 and won two playoff games last season.

Park Christian appears to be looking at the same template.

"We will try to rebuild the program with our junior varsity and junior high teams," Motschenbacher said. "We'll see what kind of numbers we get next year ... it's concerning."

Park Christian will forfeit five of its six remaining games. Motschenbacher said junior varsity games have been scheduled with Ada-Borup and Norman County East while its scheduled game with Laporte will still be held on Sept. 30.

Park Christian's first-year coach Lawton Burgstahler told The Forum he wanted it to be clear he is not quitting on his team.

"The No. 1 thing I want to come out of this is I'm doing it out of safety. I'm not doing this because I'm quitting on the team," Burgstahler said. "We don't have enough varsity-level guys. I'm here to build a program. When I have to put five freshmen out against all-senior lineups it's not going to go well. I'm in it to never quit, but at the same time I'm here to build a program for the future. If I can't play guys who are going to go 100 percent and not be scared of getting hit, this won't work."

Park Christian, in its sixth season of varsity football, lost to MACCRAY 52-12 and Underwood 48-0 this season. Park Christian has one season above .500 and one playoff win.

"Opponents are probably not going to dress their seniors against us," Burgstahler said. "Really, I'm only dressing four true varsity players. I'm here to build a program to be good in the future and not destroy it like every other year here when freshmen were sent out to go against seniors. We can't compete against a team that can bring 60 guys."

Burgstahler said the talks of forfeiting this season came before he was hired.

"They were thinking about it way before I was a head coach," Burgstahler said. "I pushed forward to have a varsity schedule. After Friday's game, we came together, administration, athletic director and myself to this conclusion. I'm not in it to ruin guys and not have a football team next year because I have three freshmen with neck injuries. I can't have that."