For the first time in six years, the South Eugene varsity football team qualified for the state playoffs following a season of success with a 2-7 record. Despite the Axemen’s victory, it was decided among coaches, players, and administration to forfeit participation in the playoffs. This decision has sparked controversy within Oregon’s football community. -Photo by Joeli Mick
“The views and opinions are pretty mixed in the locker room in regard to the decision,” senior and varsity lineman Joey Hoffman said.
Some players, however, were not surprised by the decision.
“I was anticipating the decision. Our team is very injury-prone,” junior and varsity running back Oskar Mertz said.
The choice was made taking into consideration safety concerns, which arose as a result of numerous players getting hurt this season.
“We have had a lot of injuries this year,” Athletic Director David Hancock said, “particularly with our linemen.”
Another concern for the Axemen was the sheer number of injuries that lowered the number of varsity players. The team would be forced to draw from JV members with less experience, all going up against the consistently successful and experienced Jesuit varsity team.
“At the end of the day… you have to have a full team to go into the playoffs,” Hancock said.
During the decision-making process, alternative options for the Axemen were reviewed, but after much deliberation, the difficult decision to forfeit the playoffs was finalized.
“It was the toughest decision I have had to make in 25 years of coaching,” Head Coach Kevin Leonard said.
Despite the decision to forfeit, many players agreed with the choice.
“We, as a team, haven’t gone to the playoffs in a long time. So it’s a bit disappointing, but I do completely understand the concern for safety,” Mertz said.