Niagara Gazette — For the second straight season, there will be no Niagara Catholic football team.
This year, though, NC students will be afforded the opportunity to play, thanks to an agreement put in place with Nichols in late June.
Declining numbers temporarily folded the team last season, and when athletic director Larry Puzan decided preliminary numbers taken at the end of the 2012-13 school year were going to be low, he decided to call around to other schools to find a place for his students to play.
"We had a meeting at the end of June with the interested kids, and the numbers just weren't there," Puzan said. "We had to make a decision because other schools were looking to set their schedules."
Puzan said he was hoping to get around 20 interested students, but ended up with closer to 10 at offseason workouts, which began in October.
Cardinal O'Hara was also considered, but NC students would've played on the Hawks' JV team. Puzan decided to go with the Vikings to allow his students to play a varsity schedule.
"They have a program very similar to what we've had," Puzan said. "They only have one team, no varsity or JV, so kids know where they'll be playing."
Only two students (junior Mercy Cox-Hicks and freshman Noah Munoz) have committed to playing for the Vikings, which Puzan attributes to the difficulty of setting up transportation from school at NC to practices and games at Nichols.
Puzan would not rule out fielding a Niagara Catholic football team in the future.
"We will continue to look at getting football back and Niagara Catholic, no doubt about it," he said. "If there's interest, we'll do our part to make it happen."
Nichols plays an independent schedule, scheduling games against small (Class D and DD) schools Sections V (Rochester) and VI. The Vikings open their season when they host O'Hara on Sept. 7.
Russ Nixon, who coached the Patriots in their last season in 2011, is now coaching JV at Niagara-Wheatfield.
Follow Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.