Joe Marchand said it was a difficult decision taking his team from the standard 11-man to 8-man football this year, but it made sense after going over the numbers.
“We had 30 kids in our program but that was 7 through 12, I lost 9 of them, I’m down to 21. A few kids don’t come back. You’re in the teens and some of those kids on modified they’re not ready to step up at varsity football,” said the CG Finney head coach. “That would have been an injustice to them.”
But CG Finney is not alone.
“For the last three to four years our data has shown that rosters have been dropping, especially at the smaller schools,” says Section V football chairman Scott Barker.
Instead of merging schools and communities, 8-man football has come to the forefront as a solution. Holly and Marcus-Whitman have also made the switch in Section V.
“It’s the same game, kickoffs, punts, 10 yards is a first down, exact same size field,” added Marchand.
One advantage of having fewer guys on the field is more space. With more space means less potential for helmet to helmet hits.
“Football has a bad name with the concussions right now. I feel the 8-man football you’re not going to have as many 3 on 1 collisions,” says Marchand.
“I’ve had a concussion before. It’s not fun,” said CG Finney Senior Xavier Smith. “But there’s not a cornerback and an outside linebacker coming and hitting you at the same time. It’s just you and open field one-on-one with the cornerback. It’s a lot of down here hitting rather than head to head hitting.”
“When you’re in space you don’t have the knocking of the heads all the time that you might have in 11 man football. Less of those vicious hits,” added Barker. “There are much more wrestling style take-down tackles, jersey tackles.”
“I think that’s going to be a driving point that this may be a little bit safe,” says Marchand.
“I think this is going to provide a lot of schools with the opportunity to have a healthier for a sustainable football program in their community,’ agreed Barker.
There are currently 15 schools with 8-man football teams across New York State. Marchand expects that number to double by 2019.