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Faced with low participation, Brentwood and Clayton merge football teams for 2023 season

According to the Brentwood School District, the team partnership provides a solution to declining football participation.

BRENTWOOD, Mo. — In an effort to combat declining participation rates, the Brentwood and Clayton school districts agreed to a high school football partnership for the 2023-24 season.

The "cooperative sponsorship," approved by each school district's board of education and the Missouri State High School Activities Association, is essentially a merger of the two football programs to have enough players to be able to field both a varsity and junior varsity team.

The most recent data from statista.com shows a significant decline in the number of people over the age of six participating in tackle football in the U.S. in the last 15 years, from 8.4 million people in 2006 to 5.23 million in 2021. Some attribute the decline to parents fearing sports injuries.

According to the Brentwood School District, all planning and football-related activities for the joint teams will be managed by both schools and their athletic departments. The combined teams will practice at Gay Field in Clayton, and home games will be split between the two schools. Players will wear blue-and-orange uniforms with both Brentwood and Clayton on the jerseys and a custom helmet logo, according to the school district.

Brentwood wide receiver Arris Harris and Clayton Defensive lineman Thomas Obrien told 5 On Your Side Wednesday they were looking forward to spending their last year in high school on the football field together.

"Clayton has a lot of linemen and we don't have that and then Brentwood have a lot of skilled people and together that make the perfect team," Harris said. 

"I think it brings to the table opportunities for both teams and a lot more success in my eyes," O'Brien added

Despite the change, the combined varsity football team will remain in MSHSAA Class 4 and compete in the St. Louis Suburban Conference.

"By having a JV roster and a JV schedule, we're able to take our underclassmen and train them and develop them as future varsity football players in a really safe environment," said Steve Hutson, Clayton High School's athletic director.

The program will begin practicing in August. 

Together, the athletic departments will work to finalize details like coaches, equipment and off-season training in the coming months, according to the school district.

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