Starting Monday, the football players from Pine Valley will be making the drive to Gowanda to be a part of the Panthers' football program.
The decision was made Thursday morning at 8 a.m., when Gowanda football coach Sean Gabel was informed of the decision. Pine Valley canceled its upcoming football season after 16 players showed up for practice Tuesday. Pine Valley officials came to the conclusion based upon the lack of participation to meet a team roster as per Section 6 and safety concerns.
"When I found out they weren't going to have a season, I couldn't imagine myself in their shoes," Gabel said. "Football is a game of learning. I think it's the greatest sport there is. You learn camaraderie, teamwork and hard work. That's something I used in my life to get to where I am today with my football coaches and teammates. Thinking about a senior or ninth grader not experiencing it in life is something I am happy we can do as the Gowanda football family to help another district. We are built on humility and helping out when we can. We are a tight family. I think the transition will be fine."
Gowanda has 23 players on the roster, and Gabel knows his team will benefit in practice to having more players.
"Having that 11-on-11 look is crucial in preparing for opponents," he said. "I think it will be a good transition. Pine Valley has had a tradition of having tough ball players. We are excited to have them."
And with more players, brings about competition at every position.
"That's what makes you better as a football team is competition and pressure of guys walking in your shoes," Gabel noted. "It's something to go through, but that's part of life, so that's a good building block for these guys to learn."
Though the Pine Valley players have gone the first full week of practice without working out with their new teammates, Gabel feels they will not be too far behind the 8-ball as the Panthers have worked on basics, and have not installed too much of the terminology and system.
"We keep football pretty simple," Gabel said. "If you run, tackle and catch, you will be fine. It won't be too difficult for them to pick up.
"We have such a great, great group of kids," Gabel concluded. "As soon as this was brought to their attention, there wasn't one negative comment or question. They are welcome to the idea of another school joining our family. They are excited and looking forward to it."