By Jason Wesseldyk
FENNVILLE—There will be no more Friday night lights in Fennville for the remainder of the 2023 football season.
Fennville High School athletic director Wendall Hughes III announced on Tuesday, Sept. 19, that the district had made the decision to forego the final five varsity football games of the season.
The Blackhawks will continue to play JV games.
In a letter sent to parents, Hughes cited injuries and player safety as the driving force behind the decision.
“With a small number of kids, we have been successful in sponsoring both a JV and a varsity team for the first (four) weeks of the season this fall,” Hughes said in the letter. “After injuries to several key players on the varsity team, we were faced with a starting lineup which consisted of mostly freshmen and sophomores who are undersized and do not possess the experience necessary to safely compete at the varsity level. We simply do not have enough healthy players to continue supporting both a JV and varsity team this season.”
According to Hughes, the program’s combined JV and varsity roster consists of 84 percent freshmen and sophomores.
The Fennville varsity team was 0-4 this year, with losses to our Lady of the Lake Catholic (36-14), New Buffalo (64-14), Gobles (54-8) and Calvin Christian (28-20).
The Blackhawks forfeited its game with Martin scheduled for Friday, Sept. 22, and will also forfeit games to Bridgman, NorthPointe Christian, Lawrence and Mendon.
The two juniors in the program will be allowed to play in the JV games. The five seniors, however, will not.
Two of those seniors are dual-sport athletes. One also plays volleyball, while the other is also a member of the boys soccer team.
The other three seniors have been asked to continue as members of the program. They have the opportunity to continue participating fully in practice and will be invited to be on the sidelines as assistant coaches during the JV games.
“We will still have a Senior Night for these football players, as well as the senior cheerleaders and members of the marching band,” Hughes said in his letter.
More information regarding Senior Night will be shared at a later date.
Hughes made it clear that he fully expects Fennville to field a varsity football next season and the seasons that follow.
“The future of Fennville football is strong, with 23 underclassmen currently participating at the high school level and similar numbers at the 5th/6th and 7th/8th grade levels as well,” he said in the letter. “We are confident that this (will) be a one-year hiatus, and we will return to varsity play in the fall of 2024.
“We will shift our focus to our junior varsity team and continue to prepare the younger players for the Friday Night Lights in their future.”