District exploring MS football program

Cost, impact on Lil’ Bulldogs organization considered in discussion

Devin Daley, Managing Editor

After his first season at the reins of Freedom Football, Coach Tom Liberty took the team to the second round of the WPIAL playoffs, a place where they had not gone since 2003. In an attempt to build upon this success and allow the transition from youth programs to the high school team to become more fluid, there is a proposed plan to form a middle school football program.
The proposed plan is simple in theory: form a middle school football team for seventh and eighth graders that will serve as a pipeline to the high school program and make the transition easier. The problem with this is that the Lil’ Bulldogs football program, which allows kids from first to eighth grade to play organized football, feels as though the formation of this new middle school program could compromise a substantial portion of their organization.
The Lil’ Bulldogs organization’s concern lies in the fact that they are the only option for youth football in the Freedom community and that a middle school program would detract from their numbers. The Lil’ Bulldogs program allows children to learn the game of football around first grade and continue to play it through eighth grade, where they will eventually enter the high school program.
Those who oppose the foundation of a middle school football program can reinforce their stance given some of the facts. A major concern is where the money would be coming from, as founding this program cannot happen without a substantial financial commitment from the school district itself. Some people have cited the golf program as an expendable program that could be cut and have its money reallocated to this new effort. Those who oppose the program cite the fact that the golf program just underwent a coaching change and the new coach, Tom Hickey, should be given a few years to properly establish the Freedom golf program, which experienced a decrease in participation in 2016.
Those who support the foundation of the program cite the fact that consistency throughout players football careers could be beneficial. Currently players run different systems throughout their childhood and attempting to transition to the high school system that is often different from those ran in the Lil’ Bulldogs program is something that continues to hold Freedom football back. The installation of the middle school program would give the high school coaches more control over the consistency between what their players are doing before and during high school. Additionally, the installation of this program would give high school coaches to have a better idea of what type of players they have coming into their program in years to come.
The overall issue is that the varsity program is looking to have more control in the development of their young players. This control would take away from the tradition of the Lil’ Bulldogs program being the only way to the high school program while still playing in the Freedom community. With a decision on whether or not the middle school program will be implemented to be expected at a coming board meeting, the path to the varsity program for future Freedom football players could change from what it has been for the longest time.