PALOS VERDES (CBSLA.com) — An injury-ravaged Southland high school football team is calling it quits with just three games left in their season.

Officials at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estates released a statement Tuesday (PDF) announcing the cancellation of its remaining varsity football games, citing the dwindling health of its 27 varsity players.

The announcement brings an abrupt end to the Panthers’ 2-5 season following a 54-13 loss to Mira Costa last Friday.

“We no longer believe that we can safely field a varsity team without putting the health of our remaining student athletes in jeopardy,” principal Mitzi Cress said.

The Panthers’ rivals in the Bay League have expressed “understanding” and are “supportive” of the school’s decision as they also have seen reduced numbers in their respective football programs, Cress added.

Members of the varsity team were upset over the move during school Wednesday, especially those who will graduating in just a few months.

“I’m a senior, a lot of the kids on the team are seniors, I’m just disappointed,” said one student. “It just kinda crushed my heart.”

Some players’ parents like Deanne Peeke were outraged.

“Your son comes home upset, crying, It’s just not fair to them at all,” said Peeke. “We have three games left, they should be able to finish.”

CBS2’s Kara Finnstrom reports the school has agreed to allow some players to compete with the junior varsity, but that move is also being criticized.

“If safety is a concern, why are you going to have a varsity guy play a JV guy who could be a freshman or a sophomore from another school?” parent Martin Rosemont said. “If you’re gonna be concerned about kids’ safety, you should be concerned across the board.”

A message in support of the team was posted on the school’s Twitter account as recently as the Mira Costa game.

Cress’ statement appeared to deflect any criticism toward Panthers coach Mike Christensen for the decision, instead pointing to “a much larger national conversation about the sport of football.”

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