Urbana varsity football season canceled this fall

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — “We knew the numbers. We knew who we had before they ever played one varsity game,” Nateka Simmons, mom of a senior football player, said.

Now parents and players are upset their varsity football team is being cut following their first game of the season.

Urbana High School will now only have a JV team after all varsity games were cancelled. Those athletes also couldn’t play in the spring because of low numbers and quarantine protocols.

Nateka Simmons says when her son found out about his senior season on varsity being canceled he was devastated. Another senior also says its heartbreaking that his varsity season is now gone.

“I put in a lot of work over the last four years to play varsity football for Urbana to just have it taken away so quickly its frustrating because I didn’t even get a say in it,” Ryder Matteson, senior at Urbana High School, said.

He’s not the only Urbana High School senior who feels that way. Football Coach Edmund Jones told seniors their varsity season is cancelled. It was a joint decision between Jones and the athletic director. The team is made up of mostly freshmen so they say they don’t want players to get hurt when they go up against opposing schools.

“I just thought this is irresponsible. I know from the bottom of my heart that we’re not prepared to play varsity football especially with the majority of our kids and just put them in harms way. Its just something I couldn’t live with on my conscience,” Coach Jones said.

Coach Jones says after the team lost big their first game 65-0, he realized the players need time to grow. He’s keeping the JV team and seniors can join them, but it isn’t sitting well with those players and parents.

“To have Covid come and rip it was something that nobody could avoid, but to have someone raise your hopes up so high and just take it from you. Its just not okay. Its not fair,” Simmons said.

Parents addressed their concerns with Coach Jones during a parent meeting, but Jones does not plan on changing his mind. He says student safety is most important.

“I’ve just asked them to please look at it from my advantage point. No professional that’s responsible for kids would knowingly put them in harms way. Its just tough for the seniors and the senior parents. Its just tough. Its just tough,” Coach Jones said.

Some parents and players told WCIA they think other reasons are involved.

“In my opinion, it is not about safety of our children. Its much more about ego and not winning that game,” Simmons said.

“As a senior, its really difficult to just give up my season because he wants to look better as a team,” Matteson said.

Now seniors have a choice: play on JV team, or do not play at all.

“Not just my son, but all of the moms that I got in contact with yesterday, the dads, we were beyond devastated for them. For some of them they’ll never have another opportunity again. For some, this is a way for them to go to college, to have a future,” Simmons said.

Senior year is huge for college football scholarships. Coach Jones said he plans to help seniors get a scholarship any way he can. He encourages the kids to play JV to continue to improve so they can go on to the next level.

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