Future of Clark County football uncertain after dissolution of co-op team

Clark-Watersprings' Matt Almgren runs the ball in the 2019 1AD2 playoff game against Murtaugh at Watersprings School.

Warcats fans had much to cheer about this year after the co-op football team finished 2019 as conference champions. But next year, there will be no Warcats fans, because there will be no Warcats.

“We’re going to discontinue the co-op,” said Scott Moe, Watersprings athletic director.

New enrollment classification numbers that would have bumped the 1A Division II team up to 1A Division I are the reason the Clark County-Watersprings team is coming to an end.

The team has been part of Idaho’s smallest division since it began in 2017. In August of 2019, however, the Idaho High School Activities Association Board of Directors voted to lower the maximum enrollment from 99/100 students to 84/85, IHSAA Executive Director Ty Jones said.

Moe said combined, Clark County and Watersprings had an enrollment of 89 students. Brett Murdock, a coach for the team in Clark County, said that was bad news for the players and coaches.

“We do not want to play in the division above, it’s just hard to be competitive without the same number of kids,” Murdock said.

Instead of accepting the team’s new classification, the two schools petitioned the IHSAA Board of Directors to keep their co-op team in the lower division for the upcoming season. Their petition was denied.

“Our board is pretty strict with (enrollment) numbers on co-ops,” Jones said. “The co-op itself is fine, if they want to continue with the co-op.”

Moe said the coaches were not interested in continuing with the co-op when it meant moving to 1AD2. Chris Strahm, football coach at Watersprings, said he thinks the state has a misconception about co-ops being a way to create “powerhouses.” He said he worried about the Warcats because of the team’s successful season, which he attributed to the increased skill of returning players.

“Going up into an upper division with 18 kids is a really hard thing to think about … I don’t feel like that’s a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination,” Strahm said.

Multiple individuals indicated the decision to discontinue the Warcats was a tough one. Moe said those at the two schools have worked well together, and B. J. Adams, athletic director at Clark County High School, said she agrees.

“We’ve had a very, very successful relationship,” Adams said.

Moe said Watersprings plans on fielding its own team next year, but the future for Clark County is more uncertain. Brett Murdock, who is a Clark County school board member and also coached the team, said there are not enough students interested in football in Clark County for the school to have a team without forming a co-op.

“Quite frankly, we can’t fill the team by ourselves,” Murdock said.

Currently, the school is currently looking at different options for students wanting to play football in Clark County next year, Adams said.

Murdock said no other Clark County sports team will be affected by the enrollment number change, since Clark County enrollment numbers alone are still well below the new limit.