The school that won last year’s state championship in eight-man football will not be able to repeat. The Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn and Remsen-Union High Schools began a whole-grade sharing arrangement this week. The newly-combined team is now competing in 11-man football as the MMCRU Royals.
“From every indication that we’ve had, the kids and coaches and fans and boosters and so forth have been very supportive of coming together,” says superintendent Jan Brandhorst.
He’s been the superintendent of both districts for the past two years.
“This is starting my third year and so I was shared when we began entering into talks for whole-grade sharing and at that time it wasn’t widely accepted on both ends,” Brandhorst says. “But we worked through it and it’s been a very good thing here. I mean, I’ve been so excited for this school year to start and really get things operational from all the planning that’s gone into it.”
School started in the districts on Wednesday and Brandhorst is writing his first weekly report to the school boards in both districts.
“The days have gone very well from beginning to end, only the normal little glitches that you have in starting a school year and the attitudes have been very positive,” Brandhorst says.
Last season, the eight-man teams from Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn and Remsen-Union met on the football field. That game was won by Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn, the eventual 2015 state champions. Tonight, the combined MMCRU Royals will host Le Mars Gehlen in Marcus.
“When they take the field tonight they’ll be very united as one,” Brandhorst says, “and everybody’s going to be pretty excited.”
Five years ago, when Brandhorst was the superintendent at Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn, he began exploring sharing options with Remsen-Union because of declining enrollments and budget constraints. Shortly after that, the two districts began sharing some teachers and having a few combined extracurricular activities.
“So it’s not totally new from the standpoint of we’ve had MMC and RU together doing things,” Brandhorst says, “but obviously being in classrooms together and so forth is new starting this past Wednesday.”
The new state-funded “teacher leadership” program allowed Brandhorst to hire four new teachers since the two districts have a “whole-grade sharing” for all classes from fifth grade through 12th, but some teachers had to be let go.
“It was very difficult when you have, you know, two head coaches in the districts or two band directors and things like that where you’re going to be reducing to one,” Brandhorst says. “Everyone has come to grips with it and it’s going to be a very strong staff moving forward.”
Remsen-Union had played eight-man football for several years, but Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn had only played eight-man football for a handful of years. The combined MMCRU team is now in Class A, which means they must play 11-man football.
“However, MMC won a couple of state titles in there which truly endeared the eight-man game to the Eagle fans, I guess, but overall both schools had had quite a bit of success with eight-man football, but to be honest with you, they are coming together,” Brandhorst says. “…They just like football here.”
Middle school students in the two districts are going to school in Remsen. High school classes are being held in Marcus. The whole grade sharing arrangement does not apply to preschool through fourth grade students, so there are elementary schools operating in both Marcus and Remsen.