Calhan vs. Peyton has been one of the area’s biggest small-school football rivalries.
That won’t be the case the next couple of years. Instead, the schools will join forces for football after Calhan put its program on hiatus in June.
The Bulldogs’ four seniors and underclassmen who want to play will travel about 12 miles between schools to play with the Panthers rather than against them.
But with limited numbers this season, the Bulldogs had few options.
“It’s been rough over the last five years, we’ve won five games,” Calhan athletic director Derek Burnside said Tuesday. “Kids are getting thrown to the wolves as freshmen. We’re just trying to survive. That’s why we decided it’s time to figure out a different way to approach things.”
The Bulldogs had expected to play a varsity schedule, but as summer rolled around, it became apparent that fielding a team would be a challenge. The Bulldogs also won’t field a junior varsity squad until next season, with the hope the school will play varsity in 2018.
“We’ll do JV next year (2017),” Burnside said. “We’ll look to build those numbers, and then going into the next cycle bring back a varsity team.”
It hasn’t been an easy few years for the Bulldogs. Of their five wins in five seasons, four came in 2013. Their last winning season was 2008.
Mixing the rival schools isn’t expected to be an issue. The pair have joined forces in cross country for the past decade, Peyton athletic director Tim Van Sickler said. Doing the same thing with football was a no-brainer.
“I contacted our head coach (Richard Deems) and chatted with him. He was very excited to get some kids,” Van Sickler said. “That’s what we’re in it for, for the high school kids to get a chance to play.”
Jeff Palmer will be Calhan’s JV coach next season and ultimately the varsity coach. He’s expected to focus on youth teams this season.
The Bulldogs were expected to have about 14 players this season. That’s a low number for 11-man football, especially when you factor in injuries and possible eligibility issues. And because the school didn’t decide until June that it should put the program on the shelf, it was too late to try and move down to play an 8-man schedule.
“I feel good about everything we have going at Calhan,” Burnside said. “We have great coaches, great kids. It’s time to figure out how to do something different to bring it back.”
With no rivalry between the two, Deems is hoping to have a few more faces in the stands at Peyton's games.
"Hopefully all those fans come over and watch their boys play, too," Deems said.