Down to 14 healthy players, the La Verne Lutheran football team has elected to forfeit the remainder of its games this season.
In their first year as an 11-man football team, the Trojans simply couldn’t withstand the ambitious schedule arranged by former coach Bobby Godinez, who quit late enough in the school year that Rob Castaneda was hired a little more than three months ago.
A roster consisting of four players in June increased to 23 in time for the season opener but by the time La Verne Lutheran lost its third game in as many tries 88-0 to Webb Sept. 19, seven players were lost to injury, one to disciplinary issues and one to Arizona.
“We just couldn’t continue with our schedule because we would have gotten pummeled,” Castaneda said. “Our only healthy players left were underclassmen and it wasn’t fair to them and it wasn’t fair to the teams we’d be playing. The whole school is disappointed but these things just weren’t foreseeable.”
La Verne Lutheran, which has scheduled games with four junior varsity teams the rest of the season, will not return to eight-man football. Rather, Castaneda is already planning for next season.
“This school has turned the corner and paid the dues to play 11-man football,”
Castaneda said. “Right now, we’re probably about where we would have been at the start of the school year if I had been hired before June. And we think, now that we’ve gone to 11-man, those three to five kids we lose every year because we were eight-man, they’re going to stay.”
La Verne Lutheran, a school of 152 students, roughly 50 percent of which are male, will ease its schedule next season. Ideally, the Trojans will target schools with an enrollments of less than 500 as opposed to its season opener with Ontario, a school of more than 2,800.
Though the Trojans nearly defeated Ontario in a 28-21 decision on Sept. 5, the game cost the team dearly on the injury front. Three players sustained injuries that would shelve them for several weeks but that wasn’t the worst of it. A starting tackle required an ambulance for a shooting pain in his neck and accompanying headaches, an injury diagnosed at the hospital as a neck stinger.
“We just didn’t have the depth to handle many injuries,” Castaneda said. “It wasn’t just numbers, we’d have a starter who was an eight, nine or 10 type player but his backup was young and probably a two or three.”
Castaneda finally drew the line when 14-year-old freshman were subjected to a 88-0 loss to Webb on Sept. 19 prior to the Trojans bye last week.
“They were going for two in the fourth quarter,” Castaneda said. “I’ve never seen anything like that, never been a part of something like that. I wasn’t going to let my kids go through that kind of stuff.”