MURTAUGH — The Murtaugh School Board voted Monday to forfeit the remainder of the school’s high school football season.
The decision comes just more than two weeks after Murtaugh’s game at Rimrock was abandoned in the third quarter when half the team’s 12 players suffered injuries. Shortly thereafter, Murtaugh announced it would forfeit its next two games, Sept. 28 vs. North Gem and Oct. 3 at Rockland, due to its inability to field the required eight players.
Also, the board accepted the resignation of head football coach Mike Nunnelee, who was not present. In two seasons as the head coach, Nunnelee led the Red Devils to a 5-11 record, the final four losses by forfeit.
Monday’s decision to forfeit the final two games — Friday at Sho-Ban and Oct. 19 vs. Castleford — was met with much trepidation, but in the end, several board members voiced their concern for kids’ health.
Currently, only seven players are healthy and maybe four more are injured but could possibly play. The team hasn’t practiced the past two weeks, which raised concerns about playing a game in four days without proper preparation.
“There were too many concerns about the kids’ safety and health that (the board) just couldn’t ignore,” said Murtaugh athletic director Clete Edmunson.
Three football players present at the meeting spoke to the board.
“I would love to finish out this season,” said junior Tyson Wilkins, who rationalized that only he and maybe four other players would be enthusiastic to play the final two games. “The others, it would take a lot of persuasion to get them out to play. But they wouldn’t come out and play their full heart into the game, that’s the one problem that we face with some of the kids that were hurt.”
Murtaugh has faced low numbers for several years, but has been able to skate by until this injury-plagued season.
The community held a meeting last week to discuss ideas for its football program’s future. Three options have emerged as the most likely solutions. First, Murtaugh could keep fighting the numbers battle and hope for better luck than this season in regard to injuries. Second, it could merge with another school in a co-op arrangement. Third, Murtaugh could play a JV schedule only, at least for the next couple years, until it can field a stronger varsity squad.
“There’s a possibility that we could have a team next year, but there is also a possibility that it would end up just like it did this year because we have the same amount of kids that would be coming out,” said Wilkins.
Wilkins is one of four juniors on the team, along with two seniors, three sophomores and three freshmen.
“To be deadly honest, I would probably vote to co-op with another team, just because I see our seniors this year and what they are being put through and I don’t want that to happen to us,” Wilkins said.
If Murtaugh decides to go forward with a co-op, there is no shortage of potential suitors. A handful of schools have already expressed interest, according to Edmunson, including Hansen, Valley and Oakley.
“I feel like the pretty girl at the dance,” Edmunson said.
Several board members reiterated that they will not rush into any decision.
“I suspect that decision won’t be made a least for probably a couple months,” said Murtaugh High principal Tom Standley. “I don’t think the board is going to want to rush into any decision without gathering good information and looking at what is best for our kids.”