Eight-Man Game Growing

September 9, 2017

More than 60 high schools in Michigan have turned to eight-man football squads to save the sport for their student-athletes. This is a significant increase from less than a decade ago, when there were only eight teams of this type.

According to an article from Bridge, lowered enrollment numbers in high schools within the state has been one factor. This is seen particularly within rural communities.

“I think this is a pretty good option for small schools, so they can feel like they are still competing,” Rene LaFreniere, athletic director at Mesick Consolidated Schools (Buckley, Mich.), told Bridge.

Another factor is that interest in football has decreased among student-athletes. At the same time, heightened awareness of concussions may have affected participation numbers.

“Without question, all of information that’s out there, the good, bad and ugly about concussion does affect people’s mindset,” John Johnson, spokesman for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, said. “People are concerned.”

Within the past decade, participation in 11-player football has decreased by more than 20 percent in Michigan high schools. This is a bigger decline than the 4.6 percent average within the U.S. With fewer players on the bench, coaches can have to make hard decisions about players’ time on the field.

“You are always a couple of injuries from doing something you don’t want to do,” Johnson said. “Asking 11 or 12 players to play the duration of a game—that’s not safe.”

The eight-player game allows schools to offer a team, even if participation is lower. 

“The players seem to like it,” Nick Barton, head football coach at Bay City All Saints Central High School (Saginaw, Mich.) told Bridge. “For a lot of the schools that want to keep Friday night alive, this is great football.”

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