By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD/BELMONT – Some red striping is being added to the blue and gold uniforms, the ink is dry on the agreement and beginning next school year the Gilford/Belmont Golden Eagles will officially be a Division II football team.
Gilford School District Superintendent Kent Hemingway said yesterday that both his and the Shaker Regional School Boards have approved a two-year memorandum of understanding and both he and Shaker Regional Superintendent Maria Dreyer have signed it.
Hemingway said the combined student population of the two schools is greater than 1,000 putting the program in Division II. Gilford had previously been a Division III team.
The Gilford/Belmont students have been playing together since 2014 at the junior varsity level once the Shaker students were able to raise $7,500 for each year.
To play varsity-level football, the Shaker students needed to raise $15,000 per year – or about one-half of the costs of the entire football program.
According to Shaker parent and one of the leaders of the football effort Eric Shirley, the past few years have been very successful ones for raising money. He said earlier this week, that the $15,000 for the 2016 football season has been remitted and they are more than halfway to raising $15,000 for the 2017 season.
Shirley said they recently held a spaghetti dinner at Greenside Restaurant at the Lochmere Country Club that was the most successful of all three of their previous efforts. He said the sold 199 of the 200 Christmas trees at their most recent sale and that as the program has been becoming more popular, the fundraising efforts are growing.
Shirley said one of the more encouraging things he's seen recently is that more students from Canterbury are participating with the Gilford Youth Program which is a feeder program to the Gilford football team, but is wholly separate. He said it serves children from Gilford, Belmont, Gilmanton and now Canterbury and about 25 to 30 students participate in it.
Clauses in the recently signed MOU include that Gilford is the lead school, that Shaker will be considered in the naming of the team, the mascot and the uniform to which red striping is being added to represent the Red Raiders, and that Shaker will consider future agreements sponsored in the student's interest between the two schools.
The costs of the program will be split approximately 50-50. Hemingway said the entire program costs about $30,000 annually. Shaker students will provide their own transportation and the combination must be approved by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, which it was.
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