BEMUS POINT - The Thunder Dragons representing Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake look poised to retake the field in 2014.
The Bemus Point Central School District Board of Education met recently and discussed the move to renew the football merger.
According to Superintendent Michael Mansfield, schools in Section 6 have until Feb. 10 to declare mergers.
The options of a stand-alone Maple Grove football program, merging with Chautauqua Lake, merging with Cassadaga Valley and a three-way partnership between Maple Grove, Chautauqua and Cassadaga have been under board consideration.
"As a board, we're here to make sure our kids are safe, and that long-term, there will be opportunity," one board member said.
Mansfield said that the boards of education at Bemus Point, Cassadaga Valley and Chautauqua Lake were equally uninterested in a three-way partnership between the schools, citing a lack of playing opportunities for students due to the unusually large teams in that scenario.
Despite best intentions, Maple Grove's only feasible opportunity to have a 2014 football team is to merge.
"We'd love to have our own Maple Grove Red Dragons football team, but we just don't have the numbers," Mansfield said.
According to statistics presented during last Thursday's parent meeting, roughly 31 to 41 students grades 9 through 12 were considering playing football - JV or varsity - for Maple Grove next year.
Last year, Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake had a partnership that benefited both schools.
One board member noted, "The consensus from the parent meeting was that for the most part ... everyone wanted to go with Chautauqua Lake again - the parents wanted it and the players wanted it."
Using information gathered from the football parent meeting and comments during the meeting, the board made a motion to continue discussions with athletic directors and coaches regarding a one-year term agreement with Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake. The board will not continue discussing the option of a football merger with Cassadaga Valley for 2014.
Once Maple Grove meets the Feb. 10 merger deadline for 2014 and declares the partnership with Chautauqua, the details of how the schools' teams will be divided will be determined.
One possibility includes merging with Chautauqua Lake and creating two JV teams, both with students from each school, that are as equal as possible, as well as a varsity team. Another option, according to Mansfield, is creating a Chautauqua Lake and Maple Grove freshman team, and having a single JV team and a varsity team.
Parents in attendance disagreed as to whether fielding two JV teams or creating a freshman team would be more beneficial, citing the increased travel involved for freshman teams, including trips to Buffalo, and the possibility of splitting friends up between two JV teams.
"At the end of the day, we just have to remember it's about the kids," an attendee said.