As football season rolls on, a new look has been settling into focus in the local area. A new look that doesn’t come with the traditional idea of a new helmet, new stickers, or new jerseys. The new look is with the players on the field, three fewer players in fact. The emergence of eight-player football brings a new style of football to Tompkins County.
Coming into the 2018 season, the Lansing Bobcats and the Newfield Trojans announced that they would be moving from traditional, 11-player to eight-player football. The “new” style of play is not truly a new concept as teams with smaller numbers of enrollment and participation like Elmira Notre Dame have played with only eight players. For Newfield, the participation levels helped to draw a decision from the athletic department to leave traditional football behind. “Low participation numbers the last few years led to Newfield switching to eight-player football,” said Trojans Head Coach Chris Bubble. “Eight-person football gives us the opportunity to continue to put a football team on the field which can complete the schedule.” While it may not be a traditional style, the Trojans are more concerned with allowing students the opportunity to play football on a Friday night. For now, Newfield seems to be hanging on to the idea of eight-player football, but moving back to the traditional game is not out of the question. “We will continue with eight-person football for the near future as we continue to work to increase participation numbers in the sport,” said Bubble.
While one would make the obvious observation by watching a game that the glaring difference between eight-player and traditional 11-player football is the lack of three additional players, Bubble says that game plan changes in some big ways. “Special teams are a big change,” he said. “Kickoffs tend to be squibs and on-side kicks and require more time coaching and practicing to ensure special teams are effective.” With more open field because of fewer players, returners can take advantage of more open space and can use speed to generate big places on special teams.
Special teams aren’t the only difference in the new style of play for the Newfield coaching staff. “We as coaches have emphasized conditioning as it plays a huge role in eight-person football games,” said Bubble. While most eight-player football fields are shortened to 80 yards long, around here the fields remain as full, 100-yard fields. Additionally, Bubble knows that with fewer players on the field, teams need to adjust to different schemes and setups on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
The game of eight-player football has certainly brought about a change in style, but it has also brought about an opportunity for players to take advantage of the open space and create big plays. “The players are enjoying playing eight-person football,” said Bubble. “It is exciting to be a part of as it tends to allow athletes to make more plays in space on both sides of the ball.” Certainly, the big plays provide big numbers for the players and creates a new level of excitement for fans. With the open space generating big plays, statistically, a player in eight-player football may have numbers that are skewed in the college recruiting eyes of the traditional 11-player style of play. Bubble isn’t sold on the idea that a different style of play will hurt an athlete’s chance of moving on to college football. “I do not believe eight-person football will have a negative impact of recruiting,” he said. “Six-person football in Texas and other parts of the country turns out college football players frequently.” With regards to talent scouting in all of high school football, regardless of the number of players on the field, Bubble has the right philosophy for any coach.
“If you can play, you can play,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if its 11-person or eight-person football.”
While eight-player may be a new feel for the area, one thing is for sure: Saturday afternoons in Newfield are made for high school football, regardless of the number of players on the field.
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