By Steve Gunn
The Shelby football team started the season with a very small roster and very little room for injuries.
But injuries have occurred, to the point where the Tigers are temporarily unable to compete.
Shelby High School announced on Tuesday that the team will forfeit its West Michigan Conference game against Oakridge, which was scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. The Tigers only had 11 players available, which meant everyone would have had to play every down, according to head coach Lorenzo Rodriguez.
Thursday’s junior varsity game between the two schools will still be played at Oakridge.
“We’ve had too many injuries,” said Rodriguez, whose team was scheduled to host the varsity contest. “We felt it would be better in the long term to take a week off and try to get healthy and get on the right track the following week.”
That forfeit comes after the Tigers were forced to end their game against Montague last Friday at halftime, because they were down to nine players.
Shelby started the season with 15 players, but injuries cut the number of available athletes to 11 by kickoff time against Montague. The Tigers lost two players to injuries in the first half and the game continued for a time with a 10-on-10 and 9-on-9 format.
The contest was finally called at halftime with Montague winning 53-3.
“Last week took a toll,” Rodriguez said. “We were banged up right from the get-go. It was just a physical game. It was stuff that will heal up. There were no real major injuries.”
Oakridge Coach Cary Harger said he feared that Shelby may not be able to play this week, after having a shortage of players last Friday.
“We heard today from (Oakridge Athletic Director) Gene Gifford that they could only dress 11,” Harger said. “I know their kids want to play, but I think for the well-being of their kids and their program, this is the best thing. You don’t want to end up with another situation like they did against Montague, having fewer than 10 players.”
Harger said the Oakridge players were disappointed when the heard the news at practice on Tuesday.
“They want to play every conference team, but we will just use the extra time to get ready for Ravenna next week,” Harger said.
The Shelby football program’s fortunes have fallen dramatically in recent years.
The Tigers qualified for the state playoffs for four straight seasons, 2010 through 2013. They advanced all the way to the state semifinals in 2012, when they were 10-3, and 2013, when they were 11-2.
Shelby dropped to 2-9 in 2014, 0-9 last season and 0-3 so far this year.
“Not having enough players is a big drop off,” Rodriguez said. “But we’re going to grin and bear it and get ready to play the next week.”