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Eight-man football being discussed

Eight-man football being discussed

No immediate plans for Section II
Eight-man football being discussed
An eight-man football team in Alaska prepares to take the practice field.
Photographer: Erik Hill/Anchorage Daily News/MCT

Despite statewide discussions, Section II Executive Director Ed Dopp said there are no immediate plans for an area 8-man football revival.

"I don't think we're ready to make that move, but we're ready to learn more about it if it can save some programs," Dopp said after attending a conference last week on the subject in Syracuse. "[Section II Football Chairman] Bob Dorrance and I will be discussing options for any Section II schools that might be interested. I'm not saying we are going to have a league next year."

In the distant future, though, should participation numbers continue to decline in the sport, it could happen. Section II last included an 8-man football league in 1975, when Lake George, Fort Ann, Salem, Warrensburg and Hadley-Luzerne formed the Adirondack League.

"It's a chance for a school to save their program and have their own identity," Dopp said. "In Syracuse, it was do this or lose your program. They made it work."

Dopp said a handful of Syracuse-area Section III schools had 8-man teams this past season, and a few others from Section IV and Section X competed. Twelve players are required to field an 8-man team, where 16 are mandated for the 11-man game.

"They [Section III] were getting a lot of questions from across the state," Dopp said. "'How did you do it? How did it work?'"

Section III hosted an information meeting Thursday. Seven of the 11 sections from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association had representatives there.

"It was to see what questions are out there," NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas said. "It was to clear up misconceptions. Discuss 8-man rules. The number of players. The size of the field. Different things like that."

Zayas said he is a proponent of the eight-man game.

"A big thing with dwindling numbers in school districts is finding a way to get kids to play sports," Zayas said. "When kids play they tend to get better grades. There are less discipline problems. They go to school."

NYSPHSAA Football Chairman Gary VanDerzee said he was approached several years ago by Salem representatives about the possibility of playing 8-man.

"We looked into it," VanDerzee said. "The problem was finding enough games to do it. A couple of other schools asked about it, and we couldn't find enough competition. You've got to have at least four or five to do it.

"Right now people look at mergers when they want to keep their programs alive."

Saratoga Central Catholic merged with Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons in 2013, and they were joined by Catholic Central in 2014 and 2015. Bishop Gibbons and Catholic Central played together in 2016 and 2017 after Saratoga Catholic stepped away due to travel costs.

"I can't say never, but who knows? Not right now," Saratoga Catholic athletic director Phonsey Lambert said of his school reviving its football program at the 8-man level. "If it becomes a reality, and we have enough interest, we would listen.

"For some other schools that are dealing with number issues, I think it's a great option to look into."

Most states have 8-man football programs, particularly in the Midwest.

"It wouldn't surprise me if in the future - not the immediate future - there's a growth in 8-man football," Dopp said.

In years past, Section II had teams playing 6-man football as well as 8 and 11-man football.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-399-0828, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.


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