After more than 60 years on the gridiron, the Bloomfield Hills Andover football program came to a close Sept. 11.
This was the final season for the Barons, as they’re combining next year with Bloomfield Hills Lahser to create the Bloomfield Hills Black Hawks.
Andover played three of its scheduled nine games before disbanding the team due to injuries and low participation numbers.
“The whole situation came down to us saying we could not in good conscience put boys on the field and be confident that they would be safe,” Andover Athletic Director R.J. Guizzetti said.
The Barons, which were 0-3, started the season with 28 kids on the roster. In its last game, a 62-13 loss to Berkley High Sept. 7, they had 16 suited up to play after losing seven to eight kids to injury in the first two weeks, according to Guizzetti.
The following Monday after losing to Berkley, there were 12 kids at practice.
Guizzetti and city-wide athletic director Mike Cowdrey attended the session and implored the remaining players to encourage their missing teammates to attend the next day.
The following practice brought 11 kids to the field, and with it, the decision to end the season.
“We resisted as long as we could. The kids fought hard and wanted to keep going,” Guizzetti said. “I think there was, obviously, some disappointment (when we told the team). I don’t think there was a lot of surprise.”
“These kids stuck it out, and they were taking heat because we’d show up at practice and talk to them about why guys needed to be there, and they were the ones there actually working,” he continued. “The hardest thing is the seniors, because they don’t have any other options. The six seniors we have are done.”
Guizzetti said he asked the Michigan High School Athletic Association if his seniors could finish their seasons at a different school, but was told no.
Since the cancellation, Guizzetti has heard negative comments toward the program and the kids involved, which he says is not fair.
“I think it’s unfortunate for these kids that they’ve taken a real hit from the community. They’re being called quitters, non-athletes, lots of things, but there were a large number of kids that were there every day and wanted to do what they could,” he said, adding that the biggest reason for the cancellation came from injuries, not apathy. “It’s too bad these kids are being portrayed in a way they are actually not.”
Andover competes in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division, meaning six would-be opponents are now left one game short.
Guizzetti has heard the whispers that Andover should have never started the season if it was going to cancel, and that it has cost seniors from other schools one less game in their final season. That, he said, is also insulting.
“They just don’t get what this means to these kids and to all of us in our last year of existence,” he said. “I’d like to see any coach go up to his kids and coaches and say, ‘We only have 28 kids on the roster. We’re not going to try.’”