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May 13. 2014 9:00PM

Belmont, Gilford may join football forces

GILFORD — Pending an expected approval by the Gilford School Board next month, Belmont football players will join Gilford players on a combined cooperative junior varsity squad this fall.

The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has given preliminary approval for the two towns to share a JV football team in 2014 and 2015, after which both schools hope to form a varsity squad, said Gilford Superintendent of Schools Kent Hemingway. The NHIAA is now awaiting approval from Gilford, he said.

“There’s been a memorandum of understanding that both schools’ athletic directors have accepted,” Hemingway said. “The final step is our school board approving it next month, and I think that will happen.”

Friends of Belmont Football, a group formed bring high school football to Belmont High, posted a similarly hopeful message on its Facebook page.

“Football for Belmont athletes took a giant step forward … Nothing official yet but things look better every day,” the group posted last week, after the Gilford school board gave preliminary approval at its meeting last week.

Under the agreement, Gilford would lead the partnership and make decisions about the team. The two school districts at present have a cooperative high school hockey program, and that program is led by Belmont through its Shaker School District.

The football program will be paid for on a 50-50 cost sharing agreement, Hemingway said. There are at least a dozen Belmont players ready to play next fall, according to Friends of Belmont Football, which has raised more than $5,000 to help cover costs, according to group leader Eric Shirley.

Knowing the movement for Belmont football was afoot for the past few years, Gilford school officials asked Shaker district officials last year for the agreement.

“We’ve had a considerable decline in numbers of players for both our JV and varsity football program over the past few years, so this seemed like a good solution,” Hemingway said.

The Gilford school board will consider final approval of the plan on June 2.

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