CRAWFORD COUNTY, Ill. (WTHI) - Keeping on the Friday night lights is a concern for Palestine's Superintendent Chris Long.
"Just keeping football in some areas, it's going to be tough," he said.
Hutsonville-Palestine may be two different school districts, but they're one when it comes to athletics. Long says concerns continue to mount following low participant numbers in the districts' football co-op.
"We don't have enough kids to play each and every year," he said, "We were not able to finish our last varsity game of the season, which is two years in a row."
Both districts continue to battle declining enrollment numbers.
Long says families are becoming smaller, which is one reason for the low participants. However, concerns with the safety aspect of the football sport is one that he thinks is drawing potential interest away.
"I think football has became a much more, I don't want to say violent because I played eight years of football, but it's a game that concussions have came into the game as a major, major focus," Long said, "and I think a lot of young men are actually worried about that fact and possibly being health related the rest of their lives."
"It's no secret that there's concussions that are involved in football," he continued, "and we have a protocol now for that type of thing. We have great trainers from Crawford Memorial Hospital that helps us with that. Those are the concerns that we have, as well as the fact that sometimes we're playing younger kids against older kids."
Long says Hutsonville-Palestine is looking into adding Oblong into their co-op to help improve the program and its numbers.
"We're reaching out to Oblong to see if we can get together and do a three-way co-op," he said, "and we've started that process, we have a meeting this week dealing with that, and then it's hoped we'll bring a recommendation to our school board later in the month."
With possibly adding Oblong into the co-op, Long says it will provide more opportunities for the program such as having a junior varsity level team.
"We haven't been able to compete at a junior varsity level for two years, simply because of numbers," he said.
While the process is in its early stages, Long says he's hopeful to help preserve the football program.
"The future of football, especially in Hutsonville-Palestine, relies on what we do in the next month," he said, "and so we're forging ahead and we're trying to do what's best for students."
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