Scott Venci column: Football proposal would lift East, West

7:31 AM, Jan. 23, 2013  |  Comments
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The Green Bay School District is on the verge of a significant change that could have a great impact on the future success of high school football.

A vote will be taken Monday to decide whether it will add football to its middle schools, providing a true feeder system for Green Bay Preble, Green Bay Southwest, Green Bay East and Green Bay West.

This would be huge for East and West, which for a variety of reasons doesn't benefit as much from the middle school teams in the area that include the Allouez Buccaneers and Westside Wolverines.

Those players end up playing almost anywhere but East and West. Not always, but more times than not.

East and West won't start making the playoffs every year just because they have players in their programs in seventh grade, but the coaches won't have to introduce the sport to them when they get to high school like they do now.

If the proposal is approved, there would be middle school teams formed at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels at Washington, Edison, Franklin, Lombardi and Red Smith schools.

In the first year, the five schools would play an internal schedule with the possibility of scheduling a game outside the school district. Once the teams have been established, they would seek to join the Brown County League.

"It will probably even the playing field a little bit more for us," Green Bay West coach Jeff Behrendt said. "We will be able to get our hands on these guys at a younger age and start getting them some of the basics that we are spending a half a year their freshman year trying to teach them rather than having them come in and know those things already."

There is a cost associated with the addition of middle school football, but it does not appear like it's prohibitive enough to prevent it from happening.

There would be an initial cost of $203,040 for facilities and maintenance, along with player, practice and field equipment. It also would include operational costs for officials and transportation.

After the first year, there would be an annual cost of $73,640 to maintain the programs.

Southwest coach Bryce Paup and Preble coach Paul Donart probably wouldn't agree with this - Paup said in 2011 it's difficult when you don't have a system in place that goes down through the middle schools - but their programs don't necessarily need a true feeder system.

It's great to start delivering your message a few years earlier, and there might be an added comfort knowing in some instances that you could have more properly trained coaches teaching everything from the X's and O's to safety measures.

But you look at a middle school program like the Buccaneers, which is run by a very able man in Paul Ihlenfeldt, and you see them developing players who are successful at the prep level all the time.

Southwest running back Jacob Gorzek, who played for the Buccaneers, would probably be the player he is now whether he played for Allouez or Lombardi.

"Some of our clubs have been around 35 or 40 years, so there is some personal attachment to some of this," said Ihlenfeldt, who plans to keep the Buccaneers going even if the proposal is approved. "If you take that out of it and start looking at it, I believe we are a good alternative to a Green Bay public school-run program. I believe the difficulty we have had as a group of club teams is really connecting with that young athlete in the inner city of Green Bay."

Which is why Ihlenfeldt agrees the proposal would help East and West.

While the cost to play for a team like Allouez isn't that high - it's $110 for one child or $185 for a family of two - it's sometimes enough to prevent kids from coming out. Other times just getting to a practice field located miles from school can be an issue.

Now, these kids would get the opportunity to play and be part of a team no matter their socioeconomic status.

That makes this proposal a pretty darn good one.

"There are so many positive reasons," Green Bay East coach Brian Nast said. "I could give you a list, but it really comes down to making connections in terms of with the kids. Making connections in terms of safety and making those connections with kids so that they have those connections to their high school.

"It gives them a goal. It gives them something to look forward to. Something they can strive toward. From the start of sixth grade, they are a Red Devil. Or a Wildcat. Or a Hornet. Or a Trojan."

- and follow him on Twitter @scottvenci.

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