Support grows for football merger

Support grows for football merger
Photo Courtesy of Thomas Roberts. Granville senior Thomas Roberts

A potential football merger between Granville Central School District and the Whitehall Central School District once again has become the topic of conversation. Whitehall’s Board of Education will vote on moving forward on Feb. 22.

Granville athletic director Justin Nassivera explained the reasoning behind why the possible merger is on the table.

“Obviously we tried making this work last year and it didn’t come to fruition. Being able to combine with Whitehall would be a boost to both schools’ football programs. Whitehall is in danger of not having enough players to field a team down the road, and with us we will have around 25 on our roster, which really can be a safety issue. If guys get hurt or become academically ineligible, we run the risk of having to forfeit games and potentially a season,” Nassivera said.

Whitehall school superintendent Pat Dee and Whitehall athletic director Keith Redmond have had multiple conversations about the potential merger and believe that it can be a win-win situation.

And the coaching staff from both programs agree with that statement.

“I think the merger would benefit both programs and we as a staff support it,” said Whitehall head coach Rich Gould. “Most all of the schools that we play have merged and it has put us at a numbers disadvantage.”

Granville head coach John Irion spoke via email about the scenario and his excitement for the opportunity could be felt through the screen.

“Both schools have tough, talented players – just not enough. I know my Granville staff is very excited about the possibility to integrate our programs and to utilize the great talent of coaches at both schools,” Irion said. “Together, I believe our team would be competitive very quickly.”

Gould said his main concern with the merger would be how it is done. He doesn’t want to just take portions of each program and roll it up into one.

“It needs to be a combination of each so that at the end of the day each community feels good about it,” he said.

Nassivera and Redmond are both looking forward to the eventual conversation with the players making up both sides.

“As for the logistics piece of all of this, Keith Redmond and I have been working on this for quite some time now. We both feel that this is something that needs to happen and will be beneficial to our student-athletes.

“The bottom line is that the idea of this merger is about our student-athletes now and going into the future, not old rivalries from the past,” Nassivera said.

Players from both programs have shown their support of the unification of the Granville and Whitehall football programs.

Michael Fisher, an eighth-grader in Whitehall, said the merger would motivate him to become a better player.

“It would give me a type of motivation to work to be a better me and earn my spot to play,” he said. “Honestly I think it’ll be better for everyone.”

Tenth-grader Landon Rozell said that to him it would be better to merge because if things continue to trend the way they are, there won’t be any football program left at Whitehall.

Granville players, running back and linebacker Thomas Roberts and quarterback and defensive back Myles Pauquette are thrilled to get back on the gridiron in any capacity at this point after missing out on the fall season.

“Not having a fall season really showed me and others how big of a role football played in our lives because we knew we were missing something huge,” Roberts said.

Pauquette showed leadership in his response saying he, his current teammates and possibly future ones have been controlling what they can in this time of the unknown.

“Once the rumors started circulating, everyone was on board. You look at it from a small team’s perspective and you’ve got guys who don’t step off the field, which I’m sure they don’t mind, but we’re out there to win. Having more people would help fill out the positions and make the team more dynamic,” he said.

Pauquette acknowledged that team chemistry would not be an issue.

“We’ve already been preparing for the merger on the player level. Many of us already hang around with one another; we’re at each other’s houses, going on hikes and setting up backyard football games to build chemistry,” he said.

The impact of the pandemic and talk of the possible merger has affected parents, too.

Lisa Roberts, mother of Thomas Roberts, said there is a new point of view for the current and next generation of Granville and Whitehall football players.

“I support the merger with Whitehall,” she said. “What is referred to as the ‘rivalry’ is something from a period that happened over 20 years ago. Times have changed, this is a new generation.”

Gould hopes that there is plenty of discussion with everyone who is involved so, if the merger is approved, they can get off on the right foot.

“There needs to be discussion with the coaches and administration so we can all be on the same page,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do before the season starts. The sooner these conversations take place the better.”