Q: What do you get when you cross a Mustang with a Gremlin?
A: An 8-man football team.
Sacred Heart, one season removed from football hiatus, and Northwest are joining forces to field an 8-man football team in Hughesville.
Schools agreed to co-op for at least the next two seasons. After appearing in the 2017-18 MSHSAA 8-man Football Championship, Sacred Heart intended to wait two seasons before resuming varsity football operations and did not field a team last season.
Returning one year sooner than expected, nobody is more excited for the co-op than Caleb Crooker, who graduated from Northwest High School and coaches girl’s basketball and football at Sacred Heart High School.
“It was the first year in 18 years that I didn’t have anything to do on Friday night,” Crooker said. “It was just awful.”
Teams will practice and play games at Tim Barnes Field in Hughesville. Northwest head coach Marcus Wolfe said personnel is nearly even-split between the Gremlins and Mustangs, and the co-op was mutually beneficial for two programs lacking numbers.
Wolfe and Crooker said that both sides have built camaraderie and rapport in the weightroom.
“Two communities that have been rivals for so long, because they're so close, to blend those two groups of kids together had been kind of a challenge,” Wolfe said. “But it’s not really a challenge, because the kids just want to play football.
“They could care less about red and orange.”
Beginning co-op arrangements in March, Sacred Heart and Northwest will also combine efforts for junior high football and hope to collaborate with their respective youth programs. Both sides hope to continue a successful partnership beyond two seasons.
“If things are going good, and everybody’s happy, this is going to be our permanent go-to,” Wolfe said. “This isn’t just a quick fix or a Band-Aid.”
Sacred Heart transitioned from 11-man football to 8-man football for the 2015-16 season and with a record 22-10 over three seasons, culminating with a state championship loss to Worth County.
Last year, the Mustangs bounced back from a winless campaign with a 4-6 record and a 62-14 postseason victory over Chilhowee. Northwest is scheduled to host a Jamboree Aug. 23 and open the 2019-20 season Aug. 30 at Osceola.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2.