Citing an unfortunate confluence of an early start to the football season, a rash of injuries and a roster thin on players, St. Paul Humboldt announced it will forfeit Thursday's home game against No. 4, Class 1A Minneapolis North.
"Seriously, this was a very tough decision for us to make," Humboldt Activities Director David Mergens said Tuesday. "We've got four kids out with injuries, two for the season. We've lost two others for personal reasons. Right now, we only have eight varsity upperclassmen. It's truly about the safety of our players."
In losing its first two games to St. Paul Harding (48-0) and Spectrum Charter (34-8), the team relied on untested freshman and sophomores to fill out the roster. "We had 22 players, but only played 14," Mergens said. "It's dangerous to play kids that young who aren't ready for varsity football."
Minneapolis North coach Charles Adams said he was disappointed in the decision. He said he wished Humboldt had contacted him directly so that an agreement could have been worked out to allow the game to go on as planned.
"I get what they're going through and the reasoning is legitimate," said Adams, whose team is currently 2-0 and considered among the favorites in Class 1A. "It's unfortunate because I don't think that gives our program enough credit. We were approaching this game as a chance to get our young players some varsity level playing time. We wouldn't dare jeopardize the safety of their players."
Humboldt has long had problems getting enough players to field competitive teams, but Mergens insisted that the quality of the opponent had nothing to do with the forfeit.
"Absolutely not," Mergens said. "We've never backed out of a game because we're playing too good of a team. We used to have to play Cretin-Derham Hall every year. But a lot of our kids have trouble getting to school when it's not in session. This is the worst year for this to happen because of the early start."
Football teams began practice a week earlier than other fall sports, stemming from moving up the Prep Bowl and ensuring all teams a full regular-season schedule and a postseason opportunity. Games started after about two weeks of practice, about a week earlier than in previous seasons.
According to Mergens, Humboldt's problems extend further into the schedule. It's possible, he said, that the Hawks' entire season is in jeopardy.
"I've also called [Minneapolis] Roosevelt, who we would play next, to give them a heads up on the situation," Mergens said. "We've got a couple of kids we might be able to get back once school starts on September 8. We're going to do everything we can to add kids, but if it gets to the point that we can't put a team on the field safely, the varsity season might be over."
Teams forfeiting an entire season is not without precedence. Wrenshall, a Nine-Man program in northern Minnesota, cancelled its varsity season for the third time since 2009 due to low turnout. Minneapolis Roosevelt was forced to abandon its varsity season in 2011 as a result of a lack of players.
Jim Paulsen • 612-673-7737