Forest Area photo

Forest Area senior Eric Burke hits blocking pads during practice earlier this season.

FIFE LAKE — Forest Area became the fourth area high school football team to shut down its season in the last four years.

Benzie Central and Suttons Bay canceled their 2016 seasons because of low numbers of athletes. Grand Traverse Academy only ran a junior varsity last season, and didn’t have football at the high school level at all this year.

“We’re planning on moving forward and still having football,” Forest Area head football coach and athletic director Brian Mumby said. “Suttons Bay and Benzie Central canceled and then came back strong.”

Benzie Central made the 11-player playoffs last season and Suttons Bay won a playoff game for the second straight season after the 2016 year was lost.

White Cloud canceled its campaign before the season started and Holton will be forfeiting this week’s game against Morley Stanwood and has a Week Five opening because the Red Devils were slated to play White Cloud and hadn’t found a replacement.

“We’ve had low numbers the entire season,” Mumby said.

The Warriors began the season with 12 players, and were able to recruit two more to get to 14. An injury reduced the roster to 13, and two players left the team because of other conflicts.

“Football wasn’t the top priority and they had other things than needed to be done,” Mumby said.

That left Forest Area down to 11 athletes, leaving the same starting eight to play almost the entire games by themselves.

The Warriors had two freshmen and four each of sophomores, juniors and seniors when the roster stood at 14.

The middle school program continues on, and Mumby said five of the 15 players on that team are eighth graders who will be in high school next year. He also hopes to recruit a few players who had played in the past, but didn’t come out for the sport this season.

“We have to get out there somehow, some way,” Mumby said, “and convince the kids that football is fun.”

Forest Area made the move to eight-player football for the 2016 season and enjoyed one of the school’s most successful seasons, going 7-3 to tie the program mark for wins with the 2008 squad.

Since then, the Warriors have posted 2-7 and 4-6 records and are officially 1-2 this season after last Friday’s forfeit to Suttons Bay. Forest Area topped Brethren 64-44 in the opening week, then fell 46-6 to Mesick.

“By the time you’re in the fourth quarter, you’re gassing,” Mumby said. “Other teams that have subs, and they’re not gassed. That’s when injuries happen.”

Friday’s forfeit to Onekama will not officially count as a loss, since the Portagers were able to find a new opponent in Suttons Bay. The Norsemen had an open week because of GTA’s plight, and will fill in for Forest Area in the Warrior Game, a contest saluting veterans started last year between Forest Area and Onekama.

Forest Area’s football schedule for next season is already set, with six former Ski Valley Conference teams — Forest Area, Bellaire, Central Lake, Gaylord St. Mary, Pellston and Onaway — now playing eight-player football and forming a new eight-player conference of old foes.

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