For the second time in five years, St. Francis de Sales is dropping its football program to the junior varsity level.
The Pioneers informed Leo High School that they will forfeit Thursday's scheduled game, which is Leo's Homecoming. St. Francis de Sales director of football operations Tom Gullickson responded to The Times with a text message saying injuries have taken a toll on an already small squad.
He said nine were injured in Friday's 48-0 loss to Marshall and the program has just two seniors and four juniors on its squad.
"We need to build from (the) lower levels," Gullickson texted. "... Safety requires us to play a JV schedule."
The remaining games will also be forfeited, since they are varsity contracts, said IHSA spokesman Matt Troha.
St. Francis de Sales will also play a junior varsity schedule next year as well, according to Gullickson.
St. Francis de Sales made its only playoff appearance in 2006 when it was 7-3 under coach Tom O'Connor and had Times Offensive Player of the Year and former New York Jets and Tennessee Titans player Tracy Wilson.
The program went 0-9 the next year and dropped to junior varsity status because of low numbers for two seasons before coming back to the varsity level in 2010.
The news was disappointing for St. Francis' two-way lineman Ade Olaniya.
"At first I really was disappointed when I heard we were going to play a JV schedule," Olaniya said. "I want to play college football, so I wanted to play against other (varsity) teams, but I realize we don't have the numbers.
"JV or varsity, I love the game and I am going to go out and play hard to get us some wins and make sure everybody plays hard."
It was also disappointing news for Leo, said Lions athletic director Ed Adams. Leo will receive a forfeit.
"We were expecting a big crowd for Homecoming and we want to play," Adams said. "We had alumni coming back and were expecting a big crowd."
Instead, Leo will host a family night at Kroc Stadium.