Former school football rivals begin second year as teammates

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) You've probably never heard of a Seawolf, and until a year ago neither had Burlington and South Burlington football players.

Their unique name is a combination of the Burlington Seahorses and South Burlington Wolves. Once rivals, they now work together on the field.

"Wouldn't have believed it," head coach Joe McDonald said.

If you'd asked Coach McDonald five years ago, he wouldn't have thought it was possible.

"It's the nature of football in this whole country. It's what it's come to," McDonald said.

In the second year as a co-op team, McDonald says they have 52 players, which is about the same as last year. He says it helps them keep age and skill levels together with a varsity and JV program.

"I recommend it because you are able to have two levels of football - that's the key," McDonald said.

Executive Director of the Vermont Principal's Association, Bob Johnson, says there are 32 teams in the states in three divisions. As for why football is on the decline, he says there are fewer kids in general. He also says it's growing safety concerns about the sport, and other sports to choose from.

"Part of that reflects the different interest of the students," Johnson said.
"I think any school you talk to is going to tell you that don't have as many people coming out for football as they used to have."

Johnson says there are three football programs that are struggling with numbers entering this school year, and says he believes there will be a reduction in the number of schools in 5-10 years that have a program.
Johnson thinks co-ops like Burlington and South Burlington are the trend of the future, but notes it will be harder for schools that have longer distances between them to practice.

"That's something in 5 years-- it's hard to say what the landscape is going to be like," he said.

As for the Seawolves, they are one of three co-ops currently in the state. They feel it's a step forward for the program and the players.

"A lot of us are going to play both ways. We are excited for the playing time," said Brett Bohlman, a South Burlington senior.

"Our team was small and we needed the numbers and this is what we got," said Kai Schmidt-Bilowith, a Burlington senior.