A football rival of the GW Graham Grizzlies is folding.
Samuel Robertson Technical Secondary (Maple Ridge) will discontinue its football program, effective immediately.
The school announced the decision Jan. 30 after coaches and players were informed about the move.
“This was an extremely difficult decision,” said vice-principal Ken Elphick. “SRT is not alone in its struggle to support extra-curricular programs like football.”
The sustainability of the program has proven challenging given the smaller size of SRT, which doesn’t have teacher-coaches on staff or a large student population to draw players from.
“In recent years, the dedication of community volunteers Rick Pelwecki, Mike and Al Jones, Ricky Hebert and Mark Bailey have kept the program running,” Elphick said, noting that the program has struggled with numbers the past couple of seasons.
“This year the program did not field teams at the Grade 8 or junior level.”
SRT draws students from a relatively small catchment area, which limits not only the number of students, but also the number of potential football players because student-athlete eligibility requirements prevent out-of-catchment students from suiting up. In addition to these challenges, BC High School Football passed a resolution two years ago preventing players from playing community and high school football during the same season.
The combined effect of these rules has made it very difficult in the past few years for the school to find enough players to form teams. SRT has fielded a senior team three times in its history and two of those seasons ended in forfeitures due to lack of player availability because of injury and illness.
Travel posed another challenge for the program. Unlike many sports where teams can play other local high schools, the number of local teams is limited. In the 2018 season, SRT was the only local school to field a senior varsity team so “league games” were in Chilliwack, Abbotsford or Surrey and playoff games as far away as Prince George or Nanaimo. Most of these costs get downloaded to the players, making football the most expensive school sport to play.
“These obstacles are not going to change anytime soon. It was an extremely hard move but the school does so knowing that there are many opportunities for students to play football in the community,” he said. “SRT would like to congratulate the players who have represented the Titans over the years, and thank all of the coaches who have volunteered their time to work with these students.”