Bridgman Bees combining with New Buffalo Bison to create South County Cougars

Bridgman Bees combining with New Buffalo Bison to create South County Cougars. // WSBT 22

For many people, it wouldn't be high school without Friday night football.

But some smaller schools in our area are struggling to fill their teams.

The Bridgman Bees are no more.

The Bridgman Bees are combining with the New Buffalo Bison to create the South County Cougars.

The hope is more boys will make it easier to fill an entire football field.

New Buffalo Bison football is part of being in the Lijewski family.

"My oldest was chasing all the records I set back in the 70s. Back in 78. His senior year, he finally caught me in the last game,’ said Roger Lijewski.

His 14-year-old son Anthony loves football too. He'll be a freshman at the high school next year.

"They had a very good junior high season and I said you know you may be playing varsity football next year. He said, 'Dad I really don't want to.' It's the fear of going against older boys. He's not ready, and he kind of knows he's not ready,” said Lijewski.

Now he won't have to.

New Buffalo is combining with Bridgman to create a new team: The South County Cougars.

With more boys, the districts will also be able to fill a JV team. Preventing 14-year-old boys from lining up against 18-year-old men on varsity.

"We want to keep kids in a safe setting. We want to avoid any potential areas where we don't deem it safe or we don't think a young man would be able to compete. We don't want to put them in a position they're not ready for both physically and maybe mentally as well,” said Bridgman Athletic Director Ken Schmaltz.

Schmaltz says Bridgman's football program may have collapsed completely without the merger.

While Lijewski will miss his boys wearing a Bison uniform, he's glad New Buffalo's program will survive.

"We got to try it to keep the program going,” said Lijewski.

The logistics of what happens with the cheerleaders, marching band and things like that are still being worked out.

The first home game is scheduled to take place in Bridgman on August 23.

Lijewski thinks the change will make the team more competitive.

"It's going to make the kids work harder. It's not like I got a position already because there's only 12 people out, so I know I'm going to get to play. Now you're going to to have to work a little harder in practice, and you're going to have to earn your spot. It's not there. It's not given to you," said Lijewski.

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