PITTSFIELD -- After 25 years as a head football coach, Gary Bianchi believes it's time to step down.
But not too far down. The longtime St. Joseph's coach plans to stay on as an assistant to former assistant Jack Quinn next season.
In addiion, according to St. Joseph's Principal Francis Foley, the Crusaders will drop out of the Berkshire County Football League to pursue an independent schedule.
Foley emphasized that this is not a first step toward the dissolution of St. Joseph's football. Instead, he said, it was an attempt to play a schedule against schools closer to the Crusaders' enrollment.
"We will be here next year," he said. "Berkshire County needs St. Joseph's football."
Folay said he was speaking about the future of the program in part because, as rumors of Bianchi's decision were swirling, so too, were rumors that the football program would be shut down.
"That will not happen," he said.
Quinn pointed out that St. Joseph's left the old Class A Conference in 1975 because of a desire to play schools with similar enrollments. The Crusaders played an independent schedule for a few years and ended up in the old Kosior League.
Bianchi said his principal reason for stepping down from the head coaching job was to enable him to watch his son Jon play. Jon Bianchi is weighing several prep school options, but has not made a final decision.
"Football has been my passion for a lot of years," said Bianchi. "And it's still my passion. I'm ready to not be a head coach. But I don't think I'm ready to leave it altogether. So Jack and I will essentially switch positions. It will still be the same staff."
Bianchi said the team numbers for next year are presently in "the low 20s. If we got an influx of 20 freshmen, we'd be okay. But we don't know what's going to happen."
"We had a small team this past year in terms of numbers," said Quinn. "But it was also a team of exceptional players. In my experience, that doesn't happen too often."
Quinn said the schedule has not yet been finalized, and playing some of the smaller schools in the county has not been ruled out. Bianchi said he is lobbying for the team to play as many Friday night games as possible, to enable him to travel to wherever his son is playing to see his games.
Quinn said the waxing and waning of the team's enrollment is not a unique situation for the Crusaders.
"I've been a part of teams with 17 kids and part of a team with 60 kids," he said. "This isn't anything new."
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