Polytech still looking at football future

WOODSIDE — Polytech High has cleared one major obstacle in the immediate future of its football program.

But the Kent County school still has some decisions to make as the program moves forward.

Polytech announced last week that the Henlopen Conference has now given it permission to drop out of the league in football only for the 2021 and ’22 seasons.

That came after the school’s decision in the fall to drop out of the conference in all sports over the issue.

First of all, Polytech still has to officially decide to stay in the Henlopen. The matter could be voted on at the board of education’s February meeting.

“We’ve got some public feedback now that they would like us to opt out in football only at the start of the next two-year cycle,” said Nicholas Johnson, Polytech’s director of operations. “(The board) was very receptive and happy that the conference allowed us to do that.”

The Panthers’ football program will also continue to play as a member of the Henlopen’s Northern Division next fall. That’s because scheduling is done in two-year cycles and next season’s schedules are already locked in.

Polytech forfeited its final two games of the season last fall after injuries left it with only a 15-player roster.

Along with its seven Henlopen North games, the Panthers also have contests scheduled with Henlopen South members Lake Forest, Indian River and Laurel for the coming season.

After that, however, Polytech will be free to schedule whatever teams it wants for the following two seasons.

A 16-person committee has already met to discuss the school’s conference affiliation. The committee is made up of students, coaches, administrators and parents.

The committee, which meets again on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. at the principal’s conference room, will make recommendations to Polytech’s board.

As a Division I (large) school, the Panthers shouldn’t have trouble filling out a football schedule. Under the DIAA’s state tournament point system, two more points are awarded for beating a Division I school than for beating a Division II (small) school.

“I think it will make the most sense to schedule some Henlopen teams and a mix throughout the state of who will play us and then who we feel we should play,” said Johnson. “This is a two-year fix. We’re hoping we can have some bigger conversations within the conference about realignment or doing something sensically with football long term.

“We really want to help lead that conversation and be a part of that solution. We’ve started floating some suggestions around.” 

Johnson, though, said that Polytech’s athletics committee is also trying to find ways to get more students participating in athletics.

He said, statistically, 11 of the school’s 24 athletic programs had declining participation over the last couple years, which follows a national trend.

“I don’t think we’re the only ones effected by that,” said Johnson. “I think it needs to be studied so we can really look to address that and make some changes that will help us long term.”