A year ago, Proctor wrestled with the future of football at our school (read more HERE). Coming off a 4-4 season with all but five players graduating from the team, the viability of the program seemed bleak. Fast forward eleven months and the 2019 varsity football team received word that Proctor had earned an appearance in a New England Bowl game (it’s fifth - '06, '08, '12, '17, '19 - in the storied history of the program). On Saturday, November 16, 2019, the Hornets will host a New England title game for the first time in school history when it welcomes Pingree School (7-1) to campus for a 1:00 PM kickoff.
Like so many small New England prep schools, football participation numbers have dwindled over the past five years, and the viability of the program was in question. Ultimately, Proctor committed to compete in eleven man football for the 2019 season. We believe in the lessons the game teaches young men (and women). We believe in the cultural impact it can have on a school community, and perhaps most importantly, we believe that with modifications to practice techniques and proper teaching, the sport can be safe.
A core of young talent and a talented group of upperclassmen buoyed the Hornets to a 7-1 record on the season with their sole loss to undefeated St. Paul’s School (13-20) in Week 4. While two key injuries have shortened an already young roster, there is no doubt this team is fun to watch. Back-to-back come from behind, last-minute victories over St. Luke’s and Kingswood Oxford preceded convincing road wins at New Hampton School and Cushing Academy. Pingree School enters Saturday’s game with an identical record and similar results (their only loss also came at the hands of St. Paul’s School). Head Coach Ben Rulli acknowledges Pingree is unlike any team they have faced this season, “Pingree is a phenomenal team. They are long, strong, talented, experienced, and incredibly dynamic. We have a busy week of preparations ahead of us as we try to get our young offensive and defensive lines prepared. We look forward to the battle that will unfold on Saturday. It should be a good one.”
This fall’s team spotlight on the group sheds additional light on how this scrappy group of athletes and coaches fought their way to this place in their season (read more HERE), but at the core of the team’s success is an institutional willingness among varsity coaches to support and encourage multi-sport athletes. Head Coach Ben Rulli notes, “We do not have a single starter on either side of the ball who is a single sport (football) guy. Every single kid on this team plays another sport - basketball, lacrosse, baseball primarily - and they are impact athletes in their second sport as well.” Rulli adds, “This is the only way a school our size will be able to sustain a competitive football program in the future. Being a multi-sport athlete is not only better for kids physiologically, it is better for our school community as a whole. Specialization is not a sustainable track for prep schools to take in the future, and we are trying to model this approach here at Proctor.”
High school sports affords a unique opportunity to work alongside a group of teammates and coaches for a finite period of time. For ten weeks, this team has learned to trust each other, to walk into battle together with humility and a team-first approach. The team has been granted the unlikely gift of one more week together, one more week of creating memories that will last a lifetime. Saturday’s bowl game, win, lose, or draw, will be a memory no one on this team forgets.