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Missisquoi Valley hopes to field football team - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Missisquoi Valley hopes to field football team

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SWANTON, Vt. -

It may be the only school hoping to break its undefeated streak. Missisquoi Valley Union High School opened in 1970. Since then, it has never lost a single football game. It's also never played one. The school doesn't have a team, never has. Principal Dennis Hill wants to change that.

"The moment was perfect. I love football, kids love football. I started talking about it with some people here in the school and it just started to-- it was like a brush fire," Hill said.

Before, those flames were always put out by the budget.

"Quite honestly I believe that it hasn't been here in the past because of the mythology of the startup costs," Hill said.

But the principal says he thinks they can start a program for about $40,000, a quarter of some previous estimates.

Right now, MVU boys only have the choice in the fall between cross-country or soccer. The principal hopes adding football will help the whole school.

"I love what it does for school and communities, and young men and young women that are interested in participating," Hill said. "There is joy and there is despair and there is victory and there is defeat. And there are all those components of our adult lives that can be encapsulated in one game."

The effort to turn this old track into a football field at MVU comes at a time when fewer schools across the state are even fielding a team. In fact, the Principals Association says participation has dropped 33 percent in football since 2006 as parents and players alike worry about the safety of the sport, especially when it comes to concussions. Nationwide, the scrutiny is on head safety, with a new study from the NFL showing high school football players have the highest concussion rates of any sport at any level.

"I would say it's the safest time to be a football player. I know that's kind of bold," Steve Sheeler said.

Seventh-grade social studies teacher Sheeler is also the head coach of UVM's club football team. He says player safety is top priority.

"My goal is to educate every single player on how to play the game right. Yeah, it's a dangerous, they're all dangerous sports. If you don't play it right it makes it significantly more dangerous," Sheeler said.

Despite the negative press the sport is getting as of the late, the school says they have more than 100 students expressing interest in joining the team and the future coaches have some high hopes.

"You walk around campus and there's some very strong looking young men, it's hard not to think of a potential state title. But it's a little early, let's get a football team first," Sheeler said.

And the field will need some goalposts, too.

The school says they plan to field a JV team in 2014 and then join Division 3 as a varsity team the year after.

Administrators are holding an informational meeting for parents Dec. 12.

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