CORINTH — Declining numbers prompted the Corinth and Fort Edward football programs to recently discuss a merger for the 2019 season.
That merger took one more step to fruition Tuesday, as Corinth’s Board of Education unanimously approved the merger of the two small-school programs.
Fort Edward had approved the merger at its school board meeting last month. The Adirondack League followed suit at its fall merger meeting on Friday, so the football merger of Corinth and Fort Edward moves on to Section II for final approval at the beginning of April.
“Last year, our numbers were dwindling, we had a few injuries, and we were down to 18 by the end of the year,” said Corinth Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Stratton, who met with Fort Edward Superintendent Daniel Ward in late January to discuss a merger. “I think this is a way we can revitalize our program and perhaps build a JV program if the numbers warrant it.”
Corinth athletic director Hilary Haskell said the merger would be likely be for one or two years, and be revisited each year. Numbers at the modified level for both schools were deemed satisfactory, as Fort Edward still has a merger with Argyle at that level.
“I think this is a step in the right direction, everybody is doing it, and it’s an opportunity for our kids to continue to play,” Haskell said.
The biggest challenge for Corinth and Fort Edward will be distance, as the schools are 16 miles apart. Haskell pointed out that neighboring Hadley-Luzerne was already merged with Lake George, and Fort Edward was the closest school interested.
The proposal that Haskell outlined at the Corinth board meeting included alternating practice sites week-to-week, and ideally playing two home games at each school during the season.
“It’s a little bit of a distance, but that’s where we’re at,” Haskell said. “For both teams to survive and have a football team, we’re going to have to come together.”
The merger will certainly be a change for both communities, as both schools fielded standalone football programs for generations.
However, last fall, neither team started with more than two dozen players. Corinth went 0-9 against a brutal schedule of mostly Class C powers, while Class D Fort Edward — one of the smallest football-playing schools in the state — finished 3-5. The Flying Forts defeated Corinth 26-20 in a late-season crossover game.
Haskell said the plan was to have both head coaches — Corinth’s Justin Culligan and Fort Edward’s Jeff Tully — stay as co-coaches. The combined team will play in Class D, but be ineligible for sectionals.
“Kids are out there for a common goal, to play football and have a good experience,” Tully said. “If we play in the D’s, be more competitive, have some success, that will encourage more kids to come out the following year. We’re helping each other out.”