Earl Marriott quarterback Cole Meyer eludes a tackler during a game two weeks ago against Lord Tweedsmuir. EMS is folding their senior team for the season

Earl Marriott quarterback Cole Meyer eludes a tackler during a game two weeks ago against Lord Tweedsmuir. EMS is folding their senior team for the season

Mariners’ senior football team folds

Lack of players forces squad to sit out rest of season

On the heels of two lopsided defeats, Earl Marriott Secondary has shut down its senior football team for the rest of the season, citing dwindling numbers and concern for players’ safety.

Mariners head coach Michael MacKay-Dunn made the announcement Tuesday, three days after his undermanned senior squad – they dressed just 19 players – lost 44-7 to Burnaby’s Centennial Centaurs.

“We just didn’t have the numbers, didn’t have the kids to put on the field,” he said. “You’ve got to have more than 17 or 18 players. If you don’t, you start having to put kids in positions (on the field) they aren’t comfortable with, and then it becomes a safety issue, and I will never put my kids in a position where they’re going to potentially be hurt.

“And when you look at it that way, the decision (to fold the team) becomes pretty obvious.”

Against Centennial, MacKay-Dunn said only eight or nine of his players would have normally been starters, and his offensive line was far smaller than most of Centennial’s defenders.

“And some of the Centennial guys starting taking shots at some of the smaller guys… it just wasn’t good,” MacKay-Dunn said.

One of Marriott’s players was also just returning from a concussion, and though he was medically cleared to play – and did, for a time – MacKay-Dunn pulled him mid-game for precautionary reasons, further depleting the lineup.

The team began the season, in early September, with about 25 players – still far fewer than many high school teams – but injuries took their toll on the roster. A few players also quit mid-season to focus on other commitments, MacKay-Dunn said.

MacKay-Dunn, who has coached the Mariners since the school’s football program began in 2005, was “extremely disappointed” to have to shut down the senior squad for the season. He met with the players Monday to tell him of the decision.

The players were as upset as he was, MacKay-Dunn said, but understood.

The junior and Grade 8 teams will still finish the season, the coach said, and there was a chance the senior team would return in 2012, but likely in a lower division.

MacKay-Dunn said he knew he’d have to play with a small roster this season, but pushed ahead anyway for the sake of his core players.

“I was concerned about numbers at the start of the season, but I was stubborn and bull-headed, and I wanted to give our guys – the ones who’ve played since Grade 8 – the chance to play senior football,” he said.

“Plus, we finally had our new field, and wouldn’t have to play every game on the road… we just wanted to play.”

After playing without a home game for two seasons – Marriott’s field underwent extensive renovations the last two years, and only re-opened in September – MacKay-Dunn said the latest setback adds to his frustrations.

“We started this program in 2005 and we made some really good strides,” he said.

“But now it just feels like we’re moving backward. It hurts. It all hurts.”

The team will hold an intrasquad scrimmage Friday “so we can have some fun and try to end things on a positive note,” MacKay-Dunn said.