Williamsburg, Juniata Valley form junior high football co-op

WILLIAMSBURG — Dan McMonagle of Williamsburg said his son, Andrew, has done well wrestling as part of a co-op agreement with an area school, so he expects the same success when Andrew plays football with another local school when a similar pact kicks off this fall.

School boards at both Williamsburg Community School District and Juniata Valley School District have approved a co-op agreement that will allow Williamsburg Junior High School students to play on the Juniata Valley Junior High School team.

The purpose is to allow the students to continue playing football, rather than eliminate the junior high program in Williamsburg, said Williamsburg district Athletic Director Bob Hearn.

“At this point, it came down to either not having a team or having to look at alternatives,” he said.

This past school year, only about a dozen students signed up for the Williamsburg junior high football program and he knew the coming year wouldn’t be any better, Hearn said. Rather than forego any type of football program for the students, the district looked to other options such as co-opting, which it already does with other sports, such as its wrestling program, Hearn said.

Williamsburg students at both the junior varsity and varsity level play on the Spring Cove School District wrestling teams. McMonagle said his son, who will enter eighth grade this fall, has participated in wrestling for three years at Central High School.

“He gets along great with the Central kids and he’s made a lot of friends,” McMonagle said. “I imagine he’ll make a lot of friends at Juniata Valley, too.”

McMonagle said he anticipated that the Williamsburg district officials would take some kind of action like the co-op agreement because he knew the football program’s numbers were low. He said he supports the agreement and thinks most parents will, too.

“It’s better than discontinuing the program and then they can’t play at all,” he said. “It helps the kids who are interested in playing keep up their skills. I think it’s a good opportunity for both schools but mainly it’s good for the kids.”

From Williamsburg, it’s about a 15-minute drive to Alexandria, which is where the Juniata Valley Junior/Senior High School is located, Hearn said. The biggest issue parents would probably have with the agreement would be logistics, or transporting students to practice and games, he said.

But McMonagle said parents will most likely organize carpools and help each other work out schedules.

“I think there’ll be enough parents that we’ll make it work,” he said. “We’re pretty close about things when it comes to our kids.”

Hearn said after two years, Williamsburg should be able to field its own junior high football team again because the district’s youth football program looks more promising.

“It’s a larger class and there’s a larger participation rate,” he said.

Until then, though, Williamsburg students will be able to develop their skills with their counterparts at Juniata Valley, thanks to the co-op agreement that now just needs the green light from the PIAA before school starts.

Both district superintendents said the agreement is a “win-win” for the two districts.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for our students and we’re grateful to Juniata Valley for helping us out with this agreement,” said Lisa Murgas, superintendent of Williamsburg Community School District. “Students at both schools will be able to continue to play and develop their skills, so it’s good for both districts.”

Juniata Valley’s junior varsity football program had a few more players last fall than Williamsburg had, about 16 players but not a lot, said Michael Zinobile, superintendent of Juniata Valley School District.

“We’re very excited to be able to help Williamsburg and for Williamsburg… to be able to help us,” he said. “This is going to be able to help both teams…The bottom line is we’re here to help students in general and anyway we can do that, we want to be able to try to do that the best we can.”