The St. Joe Crusaders are looking to join with the Drury Blue Devils.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Drury and St. Joseph Central High School football programs are moving toward a cooperative team for the 2014 season.
The move was approved on Thursday in a vote of the county's athletic directors and principals, St. Joseph Principal Amy Gelinas said Friday evening.
"At this point, we have 10 returning players, and we don't know about freshmen," Gelinas said, explaining the motivation for the alliance. "We had such a small team this year that it caused a lot of injuries.
"If we can co-op even for one year, to grow a little bit ... we may be able to field our own team again after that."
On Friday afternoon, Drury Athletic Director Molly Meczywor and football coach Bill Bryce each declined to comment on the report.
"Until the paperwork is submitted and it is approved by [the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association], I'd prefer not to comment just yet," Meczywor wrote in response to an e-mail seeking comment.
The co-op deal was announced on Thursday evening at a meeting of the St. Joseph Booster Club, a member of the club, James Trane, told iBerkshires.com on Friday.
Trane, whose oldest son attended St. Joseph in late 1990s, said the boosters at Thursday's meeting expected something to be done about the issue of small numbers in the St. Joe football program, and there was "some relief" that there will continue to be opportunities for those students who want to play.
"I think it's necessary," he said.
Gelinas said St. Joseph began talking to Drury about the possibility of forming a cooperative right after the 2013 season ended. The arrangement has to be approved by the Berkshire County principals and A.D.'s in order to safeguard against schools joining forces to create a "powerhouse," and it needs to be OK'd by the MIAA six months prior to the start of the season.
Gelinas said she knows the co-op may be disappointing to alumni used to seeing St. Joe compete under its own colors, but school officials hope the move is temporary.
And anyway, she noted, co-ops are becoming more and more common. St. Joe participates in several already, including those it hosts in swimming, lacrosse and softball.
According to the MIAA website, there are 23 cooperative football teams in the commonwealth, a number that includes the Lee-Lenox team (hosted by Lee), the Monument Mountain-Mount Everett team (hosted by Monument Mountain) and a co-op already hosted by St. Joe with the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter School.
Assuming BART continues to participate in a Drury-hosted co-operative, it would be the sixth football co-op with more than two schools in Massachusetts and the first in Berkshire County. The co-op with the most schools is hosted by Excel High School in South Boston, which has three "guest" schools and plays in Division 6, the smallest school division in the state.