Team halts year to shield last 12 players

MORRILL, Neb. -- Having 12 players on the football field typically prompts a penalty flag.

For a western Nebraska high school whose football team hasn't won a game since 2008 and was outscored 243-32 in five games this year, it resulted in the cancellation of its season Tuesday after its 18-player roster dwindled to 12.

The Morrill Lions suffered four season-ending injuries this year and two other players moved away.

The Lions' starting quarterback broke a hand and another player fractured an ankle in last week's game, prompting the school's athletic director, Tom Peacock, to meet with coaches, players and parents on Monday night. The consensus was to shut down the program for the year.

Scottsbluff radio station KNEB first reported the decision Tuesday morning.

"The parents were real concerned," Peacock said, adding that the season would have continued if the team played eight-man football. "With only 12 kids, there would be no breaks or subs, and everyone would have to play both sides of the ball. The chances for more injuries would increase."

Nebraska School Activities Association spokesman Jim Angele said no other school has shut down its football program at midseason in recent years.

"It has happened before, but usually in football the team will drop just before the season starts," Angele wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Morrill is in Class C2, the smallest division that plays 11-man football. Peacock said the school board would consider moving next fall to Class D1, which plays eight-man football, because of declining enrollment.

Peacock said there are about 50 boys in grades 9-12 and that it's disappointing more didn't go out for football this season. He said coaches made a plea for more players before the season but that it was too late to do so again.

Morrill will forfeit its games against Perkins County, Bayard and North Platte St. Patrick's.