Football co-op for Bunker Hill, Mt. Olive
In hopes of saving the possible demise of two football programs down the line, the school districts of Mt. Olive and Bunker Hill have come together for a co-op football program starting in this fall.
The Wildcats of Mt. Olive and the Bunker Hill Minutemen both finished 3-6 as Prairie State Conference rivals last year.
Mt. Olive athletic director Karrie Markezich said Friday that a football schedule has been set for the season and the process of becoming a co-op is starting to take shape.
“It was kind of initiated by the Mt. Olive coaches,” Markezich said. “With numbers at a standstill at Mt. Olive and Bunker Hill, something had to be done.”
Mt. Olive has an enrollment of 153 students, of which 16, including freshmen, were on the roster at the end of last season.
Bunker Hill, with an enrollment of 193, has also struggled with numbers in recent years.
The scheduling took care of itself, as Madison has agreed to pick up the open dates left void by the merger of the two Macoupin County programs.
Madison and Metro East Lutheran had co-oped in football the past two years. Metro East Lutheran will not be returning to the conference.
The position of head coach for the newly formed program is open, as are ideas for the team name and color schemes, Markezich said.
“All coaching positions will be open and anybody is welcome to apply,” Markezich said.
As far as a timetable, everything has to be set for the Illinois High School Association by August 1, Markezich said. Getting information on a team name and colors of the team will be an on-going process.
“We have a lot of suggestions – we want to know what the boys think from both schools and come away with some ideas,” Markezich said. “The (school) boards will have the final say.”
Bill Jones (Mt. Olive) and Tom Haynes (Bunker Hill) were head coaches of the two programs last season. Mt. Olive last made the playoffs in the 2015 season when they finished 5-5. Bunker Hill last made the playoffs in 2007.
The Prairie State Conference will include the Mt. Olive-Bunker Hill coop, Alton Marquette, East Alton-Wood River, South Fork, Nokomis and Pawnee. Dupo is a newcomer to the conference this season, replacing the Knights of Metro East Lutheran.
“We are ahead of schedule,” Markezich said. “Everything is going very smoothly.”
The co-op will be a shared program, meaning each school will host games and practices and share costs incurred.