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Hillsboro-Deering, Hopkinton schools to team up on football program

For the first time this fall, Hopkinton football players will suit up and take the field representing their high school.

The district’s school board decided unanimously this week to form a new cooperative football team with Hillsboro-Deering High School.

The vote was the program’s final hurdle in the approval process. It paves the way for the new school team to begin practice Aug. 13, as long as the Hopkinton administration works out a safe transportation option to the practice fields in Hillsboro to allay concerns raised about players driving the 202-9 corridor.

Under the agreement, the schools will support a two-year junior varsity football program at no cost to either school district. The team can operate at zero cost because of equipment donations from a local club team and a volunteer coaching staff, school officials said.

Both schools’ administrations, the Hillsboro-Deering School Board and the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association football committee have already given the team their blessings.

Last year, the NHIAA rejected a request from Hopkinton High School to join John Stark Regional High School’s football team.

And although it’s the first time Hopkinton or Hillsboro-Deering has supported a school-sponsored football team, the program won’t be starting from scratch.

For the past seven years, students from the towns have been teammates on the Redhawks club football team. That program began in 2007 for kids who couldn’t progress from youth football leagues onto high school teams, said Redhawks Football Association president and co-founder, Brenda White, of Hopkinton.

“We are all very excited to see the next chapter of the Redhawks program,” she said. “Earning a varsity letter is a big deal for these kids; in any sport it’s nice to be recognized by the school.”

The Redhawks club will contribute significantly to the new cooperative team, starting with the name.

The new team will be called the HD-Hopkinton Redhawks, and combine both schools’ colors: green and red. The Redhawks club has also agreed to donate all of its equipment, including pads, uniforms, helmets and goalposts, to the new school-sponsored program, White said.

The coaching staff will be working on donated time, said Jay Wood, athletic director at Hillsboro-Deering High School. His school will take the administrative lead on the program and Wood, who played football in high school and college and has more than 20 years of coaching experience, will be the team’s head coach.

The push for a school team was driven by student interest, and he expects about 40 kids will participate

In Hopkinton, some students left the school district in part because a school-sponsored football team didn’t exist, said Hopkinton Superintendent Steve Chamberlain. He expects about 15 to 20 Hopkinton students will play in the new program.

The Division III team won’t have a home field and in its first season will play only away games. It will practice at one of Hillsboro-Deering’s spare fields. The goal is for the team to sustain itself, without district money, for as long as possible, Wood said. To support that mission, the Redhawks club will still run fundraisers and boosters.

After the two-year period is up and the team moves to varsity status, the schools may work out a cost-sharing formula to cover coaches’ salaries and transportation costs, Chamberlain said at the Tuesday school board meeting.

“Football is a part of the fabric of our American culture,” Wood said. “Now kids from both communities are going to be able to enjoy and experience the game.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

UPDATE: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Jay Wood.

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