Death of Albion football program forces Willow Run JV and varsity programs to play as one
The Willow Run High School varsity football team will have a larger than usual roster in its Week 2 matchup against Highland Park.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, this isn't because their own program is thriving, but because another is suffering.
As first reported by the Jackson Citizen Patriot, Albion High School announced on Monday that it would not have a team at any level for the 2012 season due to lack of participation. Albion was scheduled to play Willow Run's junior varsity team on Thursday, Aug. 30. Rather than trying to find another JV team to play, or going a week without a game, Willow Run coach Rufus Pipkins said he will most likely combine his rosters for the Flyers' game the next day against Highland Park.
But administrators felt they needed about 25 players to keep the program going, according to a Jackson Citizen Patriot report. Albion athletic director Brad Shedd told the Citizen Patriot that as few as five showed up to practice last week.
"It's crazy," said Pipkins, whose team has experienced a dip in participation of its own, as plans to possibly close the school have been a regular topic at district school board meetings of late. "It seems like numbers across the state are down."
Albion, similar to Willow Run, has seen its enrollment drop significantly in recent years, going from 527 students in 2006 to 222 this year. Willow Run has gone from 729 students to 429 since 2008.
Albion's first-year coach Mike Culliver said he will work at the middle school level to try to build interest in the game again in the community.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to keep it around,” Culliver told the Jackson Citizen Patriot. “I’m still the head coach there, and I’ll do whatever I can to rebuild.”
-- Rich McGowan of the Jackson Citizen Patriot/MLive Media Group contributed to this report.