RICHFIELD — With 11 players heading into the season, Buck Hendren and the Richfield Tigers knew they’d need to hold on for dear life just to make it to October.
After two players quit and two more got injured before the Tigers first game, Richfield’s season went from critical condition to a complete flatline, as they had to cancel the entire 2016 slate.
Camas County (Fairfield) has revived the football hopes of Hendren and his nine boys.
The Mushers and Tigers entered a two year co-op this week, approved by the IHSAA, District IV and both school boards, with Tigers players already assimilating into the program heading into Camas County’s game against Lighthouse Christian.
“It is definitely a blessing because we thought we were out of options,” Hendren said.
There were other options on the table.
Gooding and Wood River could have taken the boys without moving up a classification.
Bot those are big schools with big players deeply invested into their respective programs.
The odds of Richfield players seeing the field at the varsity level were slim to none.
“It would be hard to integrate,” Hendren said. “We never really entertained that opportunity.”
Richfield couldn’t join another 8-man club. Adding nine players would have moved Shoshone, Dietrich and Carey up a classification.
“We felt we had exhausted all of our options,” Hendren.
Until Camas County coach Rusty Kramer came calling.
“They reached out to us,” Hendren said.
Said Kramer: “I have known Buck for years. I heard they were cancelling their season.”
Despite being an hour away — and the logistical issues that would entail — Kramer saw a chance to help kids and his team.
He could do the right thing and make his team better.
“When you are 15,16, 17 the only thing in the world that matters is football,” Kramer said. “Playing for another team is not ideal, but it is a whole heck of a lot better than the alternative.”
Buck, now an assistant with Camas County’s staff, drives his players to Mushers practice after school three days a week, adding two to three hours to their days.
To accommodate, Kramer moved his practices to 5 p.m.
But it was the players on both sides who made the biggest sacrifice.
Kramer put the decision of whether the school would bring Richfield players along into the hands of his players.
And they voted for it unanimously.
“I’m proud of captains for accepting the Richfield guys with open arms and the Richfield guys for taking different positions,”Kramer said. “These guys have been super optimistic with great attitudes. The seniors come over and whatever positions I want them to play and whatever I want them to do they do. It could have been a nightmare for us coaches, but their attitudes have made it great for us.”