For the first time in program history, the Rocky Mountain football team will forfeit a game. The Grizzlies’ upcoming game, a scheduled home contest on Friday against Newcastle, has been canceled due to too few healthy players on the Grizzlies’ roster.
“We don’t have enough healthy kids and I’m not comfortable sending the healthy kids that we have on the field now without furthering their risk of injury,” Rocky Mountain head coach Richard Despain told the Star-Tribune on Tuesday.
Rocky Mountain began the season with 20 football players. That number increased to as much as 21 but an increasing number of players became sidelined with injury. On Monday a player told Despain that injuries suffered last Friday in a 28-0 loss to Wind River would prevent him from playing in Friday’s scheduled game against Newcastle. That left Rocky Mountain with 15 players healthy enough for competition.
At their healthiest the Grizzlies are comprised of three seniors and two juniors. Despain said he has six freshmen on the roster, most of whom would be forced to play if the Grizzlies did not forfeit Friday’s game.
“I’m concerned about the abilities for freshmen to be in a full varsity game and not get injured,” Despain said.
Despain also told the Star-Tribune that the Grizzlies are intent on finishing the season. Following the Week 3 forfeit to Newcastle, they were scheduled for a Week 4 game against Saratoga — who forfeited its season back in August due to low numbers. Rocky Mountain currently has an agreement with Lovell to play a junior varsity game that week instead.
Coaches hope the two-week break between varsity games will be enough needed for players to return to the field.
“We think we’ll have three, maybe four back for the week after Saratoga,” Despain said. “If we realize we still can’t, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Last season Rocky Mountain defeated Wyoming Indian by forfeit when the Chiefs canceled the final two games of their season due to low numbers. Two years prior the Grizzlies earned two of their five victories by forfeit when Wyoming Indian and Burlington could not field teams.
In addition to Saratoga, Ten Sleep also forfeited its season due to low numbers. Rock River forfeited its scheduled game last week in what would have been its first varsity game played since 2015 after forfeiting last season.
It’s worth noting that Saratoga, Rocky Mountain and Wyoming Indian all play in the Class 1A/11-man West Conference. If Rocky Mountain would not be able to finish the season then Wyoming Indian would automatically advance to the playoffs, because the top four teams in the six-team conference qualify. That would be the first time since 1996 and second time ever in the program’s 47-year history that the Chiefs would make the postseason.
Rocky Mountain is currently scheduled to close its season against Wind River and Wyoming Indian.
“We’ll be back, we’ll finish the season,” Despain said. “(Our kids) want to, we want to as coaches and we are confident that we can.”