In the face of a change in the style of play, most teams would take some time to adjust to new plays and new tactics associated with the unfamiliar territory. When a team leaves traditional 11-player football and enters an eight-player football schedule, it often takes a season or two to completely adjust to the wider spaces and fewer players. For the Lansing Bobcats football team, the transition to eight-player football has not slowed the effectiveness of the team.After seeing a decreasing number in participants, Lansing High School transitioned to eight-player football and brought about a few skeptic thoughts from players. “At the beginning, there were a lot of unknowns, and I think that it was difficult for the guys to buy into the new style,” said Head Coach Brett Hotchkiss. “As time went on and the season got started, the guys began to buy into what we were trying to do this year.”
With the season getting underway against Elmira Notre Dame, the pressure was on for the Bobcats to completely buy into the new direction and new style of play. On the road, Lansing would find an offensive rhythm and power its way to an opening night victory over the Crusaders, 42-28. “The momentum that we were able to grab after the big win to start the season really helped so far,” said Hotchkiss.
After a big, opening night win on the road that proved that the team had bought into the new eight-player style, the next part of the transition came into focus; selling the new style of football to the fans of Lansing High School Athletics. In front of its home crowd, Lansing would look impressive as it topped Newfield 54-8. “I think our winning has been big in terms of selling the game to the team and to the community,” Hotchkiss said.
From the 2-0 start to the season, the Bobcats added three more wins to improve their record to 5-0. “On both sides of the ball, we had a pretty smooth transition from what we were running last season,” said Hotchkiss. “We were able to modify a lot of our plays for the eight-player game, and that has been really helpful.”
Beyond the play calling, Hotchkiss knows that a major factor in the team’s success has been the leadership and impressive play by the senior class of Bobcats. “We have a great group of seniors who have bought into what we want to do here, and have really pushed us,” he said. “They were consistently in the weight room and are dedicated to getting better and that has been great for our team chemistry.”
The senior class has produced a Bobcat’s backfield that has, seemingly, looked unstoppable throughout the 2018 campaign. Senior quarterback, Garret Bell, leads the Lansing attack with dual-threat capabilities, showcasing his footwork and accuracy throughout the year. “When Garret is able to strike downfield, it’s truly an asset for our offense,” said Hotchkiss. “He has a quick release that allows for our receivers to take advantage of the additional open field and allow for them to make plays.”
Behind Bell, the Bobcats hold an explosive, two-headed running back combination of Luke Winslow and Darryl Flemming. Both seniors, the pair combine elusiveness with power to find the open lanes and generate big chunks of yardage for the offense. “It has been really beneficial to us as play callers to have a backfield that can dictate the pace of the game and be reliable every game,” said Hotchkiss. “Having backs that are multi-faceted opens up our playbook and really opens up opportunities in the play action passing game.”
Along with the offense that has tallied 213 points on the year, the Bobcats hold a shutdown defense that has held opponents to just 68 points. “Our defense has been a big factor for our success,” Hotchkiss said. “They make the plays that we need them to and really allow for us to do what we need to offensively.”
Similar to the offense, the defense is headed by a standout senior in linebacker Griffin Nelson. Griffin has led the tenacious defense for the Bobcats and covers a wide range of the field. “He is the backbone of our defense,” said Hotchkiss. “He’s one of those guys that knows the game and is always in the right place at the right time to make big plays for us.”
While the season comes to a close, here in late October, the Bobcats can look back and see a successful first year in the eight-player style of football.
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