Harper Charter’s football team at practice, as players head into the new season as a six-man squad. (The Enterprise/Kristine de Leon)
HARPER – Harper Charter School enters the fall sports season as a six-man football team.
The Hornets have a “really goofy” season ahead, Coach David Marker said last week.
Marker expects three players from last year’s roster to return, but that would leave Harper Charter with 11 total players in the program. Marker said the team dropped down to six-man football because of the school’s small student population.
“We only have 30 to 34 students enrolled in our high school,” said Marker. Harper Charter serves less than a hundred students in grades K-12.
“It’s really hard to put eight kids on the field and hold competitive practices.”
The football team also had to deal with a big blow with the loss of its returning senior quarterback, Morgan Butler. He recently tore his meniscus during a conditioning a session.
“It’s unfortunate because he’s a great athlete, great student and great kid overall,” said Marker. “But now, we have a backup who’s also going to be a senior this year.”
Despite the loss of the team’s star player and change to six-man, Marker said the Hornets “have the potential to be a really good team.” Senior Dalton Bixby, who played last season as a running back, will replace Butler as quarterback.
Harper will play in a nine-team league in the 1A Special District 1 for six-man football, which is part of a pilot program instituted this year by the Oregon School Activities Association.
This year marks the first time since 1959 that six-man football was offered in the state, according to Brad Garrett of OSAA.
Harper joins the six-man league as the only football team from Malheur County. Most teams in the league are in northeastern part of the state, making each away game a long trek for the Hornets.
Looking at the schedule ahead, Marker said that “Echo and Joseph are going to be the most competitive” because of the size of those schools’ student populations. “Our rival school is probably going to be Huntington,” Marker said, pointing out the team’s long history of playing in a co-op program with the Baker County team. Harper and Huntington disbanded their co-op prior to last season.
The Hornets’ football season will begin on Saturday with a jamboree football event in Echo, where they will play against three teams.
The team’s first official league game will be held on Friday, Aug. 31, against Echo High School at Echo.