The Wonewoc-Center/Weston co-op is entering its fourth year of existence. It looks like it will also be its last.
As of now, the plan is for the two schools to play the 2019 season as a co-op before going their separate ways starting in 2020. Not only will Wonewoc-Center and Weston be splitting — they will both also be transitioning from 11-player to 8-player football.
High school football participation has declined both statewide and nationwide over the past decade, leading to an increase in co-ops and a revival in reduced-player football.
In Wisconsin, 8-player football returned in 2012 and has grown steadily in the years since.
There were 19 schools fielding 8-player football teams across the state when it returned in 2013. This season, there are expected to be 42 schools involved in 8-player football. When Wonewoc-Center and Weston join the fray in 2020, that number is expected to bump up to 49 statewide.
Thanks to the continued increase in 8-player teams, the WIAA hosted an eight-team state tournament for 8-man football for the first time in 2018. Previously, there was only an event called the 8-Man Jamboree at the end of the season, similar to college football’s bowl setup. Eight of the top 8-player teams in the state participated in a four-game showcase rather than an actual tournament.
As of last year, 8-player teams in Wisconsin can now compete for a state title just like 11-player teams. The WIAA anticipates the tournament expanding to 16 teams in the near future.
Currently, only teams with a three-year enrollment average of 200 students or fewer are eligible for the playoffs. In 2020, it is projected that 41 of the 49 eight-player teams will be eligible for the postseason, including both Wonewoc-Center and Weston.
But all of that is still a year away for Wonewoc-Center and Weston. For now, the focus is on the co-op and making improvements under new head coach Joey Ladika. Wonewoc-Center/Weston have yet to qualify for the playoffs under the co-op. Individually, Weston last played in the postseason in 2015 while Wonewoc-Center has never made an appearance.