Port Angeles High School drops JV football program

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles High School head football coach Keith Moorman pointed to his team’s low numbers this fall as “proof that football is a hard game to play.”

Anyone who needed any further evidence got it on Tuesday when school district athletic director Jeff Clark announced the cancellation of the Roughriders’ remaining junior varsity schedule.

Too many injuries coupled with an already thin roster forced Port Angeles to forfeit the last five JV games on its schedule, including games on Sept. 29 and Oct. 6 that Port Angeles already scrapped.

That’s the attrition that comes with Class 3A football.

Clark said in a news release that Tuesday’s decision was made to ensure the safety of all participants.

“When you try to swing players between varsity and JV to field a team, you increase the risk of injury due to fatigue,” Clark said.

“In a contact sport such as football, it’s important to have enough players to compete safely. Hopefully, we’ll be able to increase our numbers next year and field a team.”

When the Riders moved down from 4A to 3A in 2006, the hope was that they would finally be on a level playing field with the competition.

There would be no more games against schools that showed up to Civic Field in three buses. And Port Angeles wouldn’t have to deal with teams sporting three-deep depth at each position.

Yet with the exception of the first year in ’06, the Riders’ turnout has not matched that optimism.

Port Angeles was forced to cancel JV games last season due to roster issues and began this season with only 42 athletes (not including freshmen) in Moorman’s second year as head coach.

So why is Port Angeles, the seventh largest school in Class 3A, struggling to get out enough athletes to generate full varsity, junior varsity and C team rosters?

Here’s guessing it has something to do with program instability.

Moorman is the fifth coach to hold his position this decade. The longest-tenured of those five, Mark Greenleaf, resigned following his eighth season in the fall of 2000.

The Riders have gone a combined 28-53 since the turn of the millennium, with only two winning seasons (2006 and 2001) and one postseason appearance (2006) to speak of.

Getting students to turn out in the face of such turbulence is a difficult proposition to say the least.

And due to the physical nature of football, roster size is absolutely critical. It’s part of the reason you almost never see multi-classification football leagues.

Yet little success or stability usually equals fewer athletes, which ensures that future prosperity is hard to come by.

Such is the vicious cycle the Port Angeles program currently finds itself in.

The absence of a junior varsity team, which allows sophomores and juniors unlikely to see heavy varsity minutes to develop, certainly won’t help.

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