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Winfield, Mo. – For about a month, Elsberry’s football players were in limbo, wondering if they would ever get to play again.

That question was answered on June 21 – and the answer was a decisive “yes.”

During a special meeting, Winfield R-IV School District approved a cooperative between the two schools to join forces to play football for the 2021 season.

The Clopton-Elsberry IndianHawks football program was dissolved after 15 seasons due to low participation and player safety issues on June 24.

“We received a phone call from Elsberry to see if we wanted to pick up these players,” Winfield R-IV Superintendent Daniel Williams said. “You hate to see kids who have played for two or three years miss out because a program, so we’re bring them along.”

“We’re excited to have them,” said second-year Warriors football coach Cody Spegal. “We’re going to plug them in immediately, and hit the ground running.”

Under the agreement at the board meeting, Elsberry will provide transportation for its players to practice and games – a 16-minute drive, as opposed to the 20-minute drive to Clopton. Also, it’s in the same county, which Williams said was the driving force behind accepting the co-op.

“This is good for Lincoln County as a whole,” he said. “It will also be good for our students, as well as their students.”

From a football standpoint, the co-op could younger players who might not be ready to play varsity football more time to develop.

“With the fact, (Elsberry’s players) have been part of a co-op for several years, this will benefit both schools,” Williams said. “This will allow some kids on (junior varsity) who haven’t developed yet to spend more time developing – and this will also give kids with experience who otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to play a spot.”

“I see it as a win-win for both sides,” Spegal said. “It will create some position battles.

“We’re trying to create better people, and having more bodies will do that.”

The Warriors will also bring a pair of assistants from the IndianHawks staff to join Spegal. Per Missouri State High School Activities Association bylaws, the co-op will have to have board approval every year, but Spegal said that shouldn’t be a problem.

“This puts us at about 65 kids on our roster, which we’ve never had,” he said. “We’re extremely excited about that.”

The increase in number also means in a bump in classification. Winfield will likely move up to Class 4, a big move for a team that went winless in Class 3 in 2020.

Nevertheless, Spegal already has high expectations for what he already has – and what he has coming in.

“The beauty in disguise is we’re having camp,” said Spegal, whose Warriors went 0-10 in his first season in 2020. “We have a chance to see what kind of talent we have.

“The whole community is excited to see what we have here.”