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Smith Vocational to add football, girls volleyball teams

Smith Vocational announced Tuesday that it will form a varsity football team for the 2013-14 academic year. Shawn Wackerbarth, left, is a junior at Smith Voke. He played for three years at Northampton High School through a cooperative aggreement that was terminated this fall.

Smith Vocational announced Tuesday that it will form a varsity football team for the 2013-14 academic year. Shawn Wackerbarth, left, is a junior at Smith Voke. He played for three years at Northampton High School through a cooperative aggreement that was terminated this fall. Purchase photo reprints »

There’s still work to do, but Superintendent Jeffrey Peterson expects his school to field those teams in the fall of 2013. The Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Conference has approved the move.

“It’s been a huge process,” said Peterson, who will also be the head coach of the football team. “It’s not an easy thing. We need to raise a lot of money. It is going to take $50,000 to $100,000 to get this off the ground. That’s what we’re trying to do right now. I’m also trying to get the kids in the weight room and sell it to them. This is an unknown for a lot of my students, so I’m letting them know what it takes to be successful.”

The school is considering options to reach its fundraising goals.

“We just started reaching out to some local businesses,” Peterson said. “We’re going to have to do things like raffles, but we need some businesses in town to step up and help us out. We are certainly going to need that — perhaps some alumni that still live in the area and own businesses. That would be a great way for them to get involved and give back.”

He added, “I’m going forward with the idea that we are going to get there. It has to get done. We have no choice.”

Smith Vocational offered football to its students from 2000 to 2012 through a cooperative program with Northampton High School. The agreement was ended by Northampton before last season as part of a decision to move down from the AA Conference to the Suburban League to play against schools with smaller enrollments.

Students from Smith Vocational who played for Northampton last season were grandfathered into the program for the rest of their careers. However, those students will now play for the Vikings.

“I will miss my friends and coaches at NHS. They are like brothers to me,” junior Dan McCarthy, one of the former Blue Devils players, said in a statement released by the school. “However, I am looking forward to helping my teammates at Smith become better football players and students.”

Peterson expects those four players — Shawn Wackerbarth, Sam Duffy, Malik Renner and McCarthy — to be strong leaders in the program’s first year.

“They are certainly going to be the leaders,” said Peterson, who estimated that 40 students, not including freshmen, have signed up to play. “I think they are looking forward to it. It’s a tough decision for them because they really enjoyed their time at Northampton, but I think they are looking forward to an exciting time at our school.”

Smith Vocational will have a cooperative agreement with Smith Academy and play in the Tri-County League and Division 6. Peterson said he plans to meet with potential Smith Academy players in Hatfield on Thursday. Smith Academy does not have a football team.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to co-op,” Smith Academy Athletic Director Dave Keir said. “We can’t offer everything that everybody wants, but we are trying to do everything we can to provide opportunities for our students.

“Hopefully, that will keep kids from school choicing out (of Smith Academy) and maybe we get some kids who school choice in because we have” football, he added.

Peterson played football at the University of Massachusetts before graduating in 1992. He later played semipro football for the Holyoke Warriors and Blitzin’ Bears of Springfield.

Peterson previously coached football and wrestling at Ludlow High School.

The girls volleyball team will be independent for two years.

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

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