Dwindling football numbers have affected a few San Mateo County teams more than Mills High School. But no team heard more of a buzz surrounding the possibility of having to drop their varsity football team in 2017 than the Vikings.

The 2018 season is off to a rocky start in this respect as well. With Peninsula Athletic League teams opening scrimmages Friday, Mills was forced to drop its slated four-way scrimmage with Menlo School, Lincoln-SF and Gunn-Palo Alto.

“Since we were light in numbers, I didn’t want to chance injury before the season started,” Mills head coach Mike Dozier said. “So I elected not to play.”

Dozier said the scrimmage was a mere hiccup toward a rebuilding season, one he describes with optimism. The reason for canceling the scrimmage was the Vikings only had paperwork filed for 16 varsity players. The team currently has 27 players on its varsity roster though.

“It’s tough,” Dozier said. “This is not a football school per se. So we’re always limited in numbers. It was like that before I got here. So, it’s always been this way. So it’s nothing we can’t handle. We don’t cry about it. We just get ready for it the next week.”

Mills is also without a game to play to start its non-league schedule next Friday, Aug. 24. This is due to the originally scheduled opponent, Oakland Military Institute, informing Mills three months after the game was scheduled that OMI would not be fielding a varsity team, Dozier said.

OMI, a charter school that opened in 2001, added football just last year. The program fielded only a junior-varsity team last year. It has a varsity page listed at MaxPreps.com, but will only be fielding a JV team for a second straight season, Dozier said.

“They called us pretty early, in mid-June, and told us they weren’t going to have a varsity program,” Dozier said.

The Mills JV team will still travel to play OMI. Dozier said he does not know if Mills will receive a victory via forfeit for the lost game. The Vikings will open their varsity slate Friday, Aug. 31 at home against Skyline-Oakland.

With just six seniors currently on roster, Mills is intent to build for the future with its majority junior team.

Returning quarterback Dominic Piefer has spent the offseason dedicating himself to improving his game.

“He worked his butt off over the summer,” Dozier said. “I’m really proud of him for that.”

With one full season of varsity ball under his belt, he worked double time over the summer, playing in both a 7-on-7 high school league with mostly other Mills players, and also moving up a weight class by playing on an adult team run by his uncle Michael Vidovich in a 6-on-6 league at Burlingame High School.

“My arm is stronger,” Piefer said. “I’ve grown so much and learned a lot more about my footwork technique. Football, I just love it.”

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