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'Filling the Field' -- Part 1

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Participation numbers in high school athletes are on the rise across the United States, however, that doesn't always correctly represent the local sports scene.

Roughly eight years ago, St. Mary's School in Medford didn't have enough players to field a football program.

“We didn’t know the future of our program at that point," Head Football Coach and St. Mary's Athletic Director Jamie Young said. “There were numerous occasions prior to when I arrived, the team needed to cancel a portion of their season because of declining numbers.”

The Crusaders were forced to cancel games during Young's first year at St. Mary's.

While the solution to finding more kids to participate might be recruiting from within the school, but in this unique case, the remaining dozen-or-so football players on the team that year did it themselves.

“Those kids continued to practice," Young said. "They came to me and said ‘coach we signed up for a full season of football, will the coaches come out can we still practice,’ of which my entire staff 'of course.'"

Young says the kids that came out for the program created more buzz around campus for additional participation, which has stuck with St. Mary's since.

"Our numbers had started to increase and then being able to find teams that were available to play," Young said. "We went into California, we went into Washington in order for us to play varsity teams.”

After playing a few seasons as an 'independent' program playing teams far-and-wide to create a schedule, the Crusaders were back in the 3A Southern Cascade League.

Now, the program's strength speaks for itself.

“We generally start with 32 kids and we finish with 32 kids," Young said.

Last season, the Crusaders ended a 22 year playoff drought.

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