A Bellarmine-Jefferson High football program that has suffered its share of struggles this season hit another speed bump this week.
Already suffering from low numbers, the Guards had several players sustain injuries during a Sept. 28 nonleague game against Campbell Hall. That has left the Bell-Jeff team depleted and forced the cancellation of Saturday's 7 p.m. nonleague contest against Santa Clarita Christian at Canyon Country Canyon High, according to Guards Coach Lance Fauria.
"Our main concern is the safety of our kids," said Fauria, who is in his first year. "We are doing the best that we can, but the number of kids we have who are healthy right now, it's just too dangerous to put that small of a group on the field right now."
Fauria said he realized the game against Santa Clarita Christian would have to be scrapped when less than 11 healthy players showed up for practice Tuesday.
"That's not enough to practice with, let alone play a game with," said Fauria, who said the decision was made Wednesday. "We had to make the decision at some time. We just don't have enough kids right now.
"We just had some injuries from our last game and some other things that just won't allow us to put a team out there right now."
With less than 11 players, Bell-Jeff is below the requirement that is mandated for the minimum number of players needed to field a team. According to National Federation of State High School Associations Rule Book, under which the CIF Southern Section abides by, Page 11, Rule 1, Article 3 states: "Each team shall begin the game with 11 players, but if it has no substitutes to replace injured or disqualified players, it may continue with fewer."
Despite the cancellation, Santa Clarita Christian was able to find another opponent in quick order. The Cardinals will play Viewpoint at 7 p.m. Saturday at Canyon. Athletic Director Ali Aguilar said the game opened up when Campbell Hall canceled its contest with Viewpoint.
"We had heard some things that Bell-Jeff was canceling some games at the beginning of the season, but we were calling for confirmation and the game was good to go," Aguilar said. "Then we got a call saying they didn't have enough players.
"It's surprising coming from Bell-Jeff. With their school they are very good in multiple sports and it was kind of a surprise they had to cancel."
The season started out shaky for the Guards when a late start to practice and low turnout forced the program to cancel its first three nonleague games of the season.
The Guards were originally scheduled to open their season Aug. 30 in a nonleague game against North Hollywood. Also scrapped was the Sept. 6 nonleague game against Brentwood and the Sept. 14 nonleague contest against Bishop Montgomery.
Although North Hollywood and Brentwood didn't count the Bell-Jeff game on their record, Bishop Montgomery considered it a forfeit, and have claimed a 2-0 victory over the Guards.
Bell-Jeff (0-3) was finally able to open its season Sept 21 at Chadwick. The result was a 44-6 nonleague loss on the road. Last week, the Guards fell in a nonleague home game to Campbell Hall, 28-0, at Memorial Field.
Despite the cancellation this week, Fauria said he is confident the Guards will be healthy enough to play in their homecoming game Oct. 12 against St. Monica at Memorial Field. The game is also the Santa Fe League opener.
"The time not playing this week just gives us some time to heal for some of the guys," he said. "That's what we need to do right now. It's unfortunate, but the prudent thing for us is to protect our kids and that's the No. 1 thing.
"And the guys who have been out there working every day … it's not only nice to see, but it's a testament to the kids' fortitude to deal with something like this. Those kids out there are doing more than a lot of football kids are doing. And it really shows their true character."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun