JBS and Lutheran North Football


Sarah Herbster, Reporter

     Situated in North County and founded in 1965, Lutheran High School’s success on the football field has garnered state-wide attention. North’s football program won the Class 2 Missouri State Championship last December, an achievement that had been on the horizon since head coach Carl Reed joined the team in 2015.

     As part of their rapid success, Reed has been accused of recruiting his players with the promise of scholarships to competitive universities. With such a potent team, Lutheran North has informally claimed the role of top dog of the Metro League Conference for the past few years.

     On the other hand, Burroughs has been working to retain its reputation afier winning the Class 3 Missouri State Championship in 2015. While Burroughs beat Lutheran North in 2015 by 41 points, the Bombers have lost to the Lutheran North Crusaders by an average of 59 points per game over the past three years. In mid-February, Burroughs chose to drop North from their football lineup for the upcoming 2020 Season.

     Mr. Abbott assured students at assembly this past week that the decision to drop Lutheran North in football was the result of three years of conversation between the schools.

     Explaining to the students in response to a student sound off that “North made a philosophical switch away from the way Burroughs does things, and the way that most of the Metro League does things. They have begun to attract older transfers. It is understood that in the last four years that they have had 35-40 students transfer into their school who also play football. North has articulated that getting these players D1 scholarships is their main goal” (as evidenced by 9 North seniors signing athletic scholarships to play football in college).

     Mr. Abbott also noted that the main reason for dropping North from the football schedule is a result of “this philosophical change. Football is a contact sport. Their line-men on average weighed 75 lbs more than ours, and this can have severe safety effects because of the collision nature of football.”

     The school’s decision was also reccounted in a recent Post Dispatch article. “I have so much respect for your school and this was a very difficult decision for us, but the gap between our two programs has grown so large that I believe the game doesn’t do anything to benefit either of our teams,” headmaster Andy Abbott wrote in an email to Lutheran North officials, which was first published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If over the next year or two, the gap gets closer, we would be open to scheduling the game again, if you are interested.”

     The Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson put it: “In other words, get back to us when you’re more beatable.”

     In his piece, Frederickson argued that if Burroughs intends to drop Lutheran North, then perhaps they should reconsider the recently unbalanced games with MICDS as well. “I‘m not sure how Burroughs officials did not reach a similar scheduling conclusion about MICDS after losing that conference game 52-0 in 2017 and 42-0 in 2018,” he wrote.

     Many Post-Dispatch commenters criticized Burroughs’ decision. One writes: “[Burroughs] did this because they do not want to talk about the racial overtones or undertones… There is no reason not to play. They are not skipping games with their predominantly white brothers.” Another commenter adds: “John Burroughs you are WRONG for doing this! I am white and feel that the Burroughs players are being cheated by the school’s decision to back out! LN didn’t quit after 2015 so why should you quit in 2020! JUST WRONG BURROUGHS.”

     Other commenters defended the move. “These scheduling decisions are made in coaching high school sports to drop opponents when a disparity in ability level gets out of control and appears it will be for the near future. If the conference bylaws do not mandate you play every other team then it’s the smart thing to do for both teams, especially the lesser team,” one wrote. “JBS & MICDS will always play each other because they have for the last 1,050 years and they are each other’s archrival. JBS has no obligation to play any other team if a non-competitive situation arises for the near future. This has nothing to do with race.”

     Meanwhile, Lutheran North head coach Carl Reed excoriated Burroughs’ snub in a post on Twitter. “In 2015 John Burroughs beat us in football 53-12. My best player was knocked out of the game with a concussion. No one cared about the gap between our programs at the time,” he wrote. “Or my players’ safety. Lutheran North has not beat John Burroughs in boys soccer since 2009. That’s a huge gap in talent, resources, and competitiveness. The game has never been cancelled. There has never been a concern for Lutheran North’s well-being.”

     Abbott addressed the difference between football and soccer in his assembly speech when he said “football is a collision sport, and [size difference and injury prevention] is less concerning in sports like tennis and baseball. It’s the same reason why we don’t play Chaminade, Desmet, or Kirkwood, but play them in other sports.”

     Senior Carlos Hillman, who has been part of the Burroughs Football Program since seventh grade, shared: “I disagree with the decision to take them off of next year’s schedule. I think it sends the wrong message and sets a bad example for athletes coming up that will be playing football or any other sport.”

     However, he thinks that “[The St. Louis Post Dispatch Article] just entirely paints a false narrative about not only our team, but John Burroughs School and [our football] program in general.”

     Hillman concludes: “After talking with Coach Tasker, he said there were a multitude of reasons why [Burroughs dropped Lutheran North], one being the size, speed, and talent… and the feeling of inability to compete fairly. Burroughs, over the past couple of years, has tried to adopt this motto of ‘Competing with Honor’ so when we’re much better than a team, we win by no more than this amount of points. It should be mutual with both teams, where if they’re much better, in the case of Lutheran North, they shouldn’t win by more than 42 points.”

     Coach Merritt declined to comment.

     While many students have voiced their opinions on the days following the publishing of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, there seems to be no common consensus among the Burroughs community.

     However, this decision only stands for the 2020 season and can change.