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When Nobody's Left but the Waterboy: Punt

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Like a referee stopping a prize fight because a boxer has received too many bloodying blows, the board of education in Clayton, N.J., has cancelled the rest of the Clayton High School football team's season.

Injuries had reduced the Clippers' ranks from 32 players to 13 when Joseph Mucci, the athletic director, stepped in and said he would be "an idiot" to allow the team to play its fifth game. And last week, the school board decided to call off the rest of the season even though many of the injured players said they were now healthy.

The school's 13 healthy players protested when Mr. Mucci decided to forfeit Clayton's game with Woodstown High School.

Despite being on the short end of a cumulative season score of 143-8, many Clippers complained about the forfeit. Typical was a comment by Robert Gonzales, the team's center and nose guard: "At least let's go out and try. If they beat us, they beat us."

Even Mr. Mucci complained when the board decided to end the season. By the day of the season's scheduled sixth game, the team had 27 healthy players, including 10 seniors.

Because of the school's small population of 350 students in four grades, the team has periodically seen its ranks thinned over the past 22 years, he said; at one point, the team played with 18 players. "We've always tried to salvage the varsity program, even if you end up ending the junior-varsity program," he said.

This year, the junior-varsity team is the winner. It will take on most of the healthy players left idle by the truncated varsity season.

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