May 25, 2024

Border West to begin first consolidated football season

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Sam Peterson

Grant County Herald

The schools of Wheaton/Herman-Norcross and Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley are not strangers to each other, as they are combined to form Border West for multiple sports. The two schools have been doing their best to support their own football programs, but this season will mark the first year the two schools will come together to form a Border West football team. This season, the varsity games will be held in Wheaton, while the JV, ninth and junior high games will be split between Wheaton, Herman and Graceville.

The idea of combining has been around for quite some time. As long as three summers ago, there have been meetings held on the exact subject of consolidation and has been brought up numerous times since. The powers that be decided against consolidating at the time, partly to wait until the two-year cycle of section and district placement was finished. 

This year, the move was necessary to keep football strong in the area. According to Border West football coach James Paul, it was necessary to help ensure that football in their area can survive and thrive into the future.

Last season, both W/H-N and CGB were nine-man football teams. They will not have to deal with adjusting to two more players on the field, since Border West remained just under the Class A threshold and will continue to play nine-man this fall. The cutoff for 11-man is 150 and Border West is sitting at 136.

While it is different for the athletes to be playing football together, Paul believes there will be a familiarity with each other since many are already playing other sports together. “We know this was coming down the pipeline, so I think athletes were able to prepare mentally for it for a while,” Paul said.

The team has had numerous opportunities to get on the field together this summer. They participated in 7 on 7 games, traveled to the University of Morris Team Camp and hosted their own team camp as well. Coach Paul even hosted the team out at his house for a grill out where the athletes and coaches had a chance to talk some ball, play some bags and get to know each other a little better.

This year’s coaching staff is a mixture of the past coaches on the W/H-N and CGB staffs. All the previous coaches were encouraged to apply, but there were also new faces in the applicant pool. Paul and the administration went through the regular interview process before they selected the group of applicants they were most comfortable with moving forward.

With two schools combining, there will be plenty of competition for starting roles and playing time. “Competition helps breed success if athletes buy into the hard work and compete to earn spots or playing time. We, as a staff, will have to work and evolve with our athletes and try to put athletes in spots where they can succeed, help the team and help us win games,” Paul said.

The main goal in the first co-opted season will be to fight and claw their way through a tough district and section schedule.

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