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The St. Joseph Catholic High turf soccer field is shown Thursday, April 14, 2022.
Patrick Carr, Standard Examiner
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A diagram of what an eight player football game might look like.
Patrick Carr, Standard Examiner
More than 80 years ago, part of Utah adopted six-man prep football.
High schools such as Cedar, Dixie, Hurricane and Milford adopted the reduced-player version of American football in 1939, according to prep football historian George Felt.
These schools, along with others at one time or another, played six-man games for 10 seasons before the UHSAA “banned” him — yes, banned — after 1948, according to Felt.
More than 70 years later, small-player football returns.
In March, the Utah High School Activities Association Board of Directors approved the addition of eight-player football this fall, expanding the opportunity to more than two dozen schools across the state in the 2A and 1A.
The UHSAA surveyed schools in January to see who would be interested, and according to UHSAA deputy director Brenan Jackson, six schools have committed to playing eight-player football this fall.
Monticello, Monument Valley, Whitehorse (Montezuma Creek), Water Canyon (Hilldale), Rich High (Randolph) and Utah School for the Deaf and Blind (Salt Lake City) are the six entered, Jackson told Standard- Examine.
These schools also have the option of playing an 11-player game if circumstances permit, and some schools are expected to play both eight-player and 11-player this fall. As long as teams play at least one eight-man game, they would be eligible for the playoffs, Jackson said.
All the logistical details have not yet been settled; however, eight teams are needed for a playoff and a few more schools are reportedly seriously considering eight-man football this fall.
One such school is St. Joseph Catholic High in Ogden. Its principal, Clay Jones, has confirmed that the school is seriously considering launching an eight-player football program for the fall season.
The gears are turning to get eight-man football off the ground in Ogden and Utah.
ST. THE CONSIDERATIONS OF JOSEPH
Last spring, St. Joseph began building a pavilion near its grass football field that would have bathrooms and concession stands. Eventually, the school also constructed an artificial turf soccer field just north of the grass field.
The school has a football pitch, should that happen. It is unclear if SJCHS is finally getting into football.
Jones said the school surveyed its community to gauge interest in starting a football program this year, which would also likely mean moving the baseball team’s season from fall to spring.
Polls came back in support of the idea, including “some” interest from the student body in both high school and elementary school, Jones said.
He and the school’s athletic director, Alex Salvo, also recently sat down with Lyndon Johnson, head football coach at Ben Lomond High School, to go over the ins and outs of running a high school program. soccer.
Cost is probably the biggest hurdle in St. Joseph’s way, with the school likely having to come up with, at a minimum, a five-figure amount to get started.
“I’m very aware of what we’re going to do because of the financial burden it might put on the school going through it, it’s really – you know, my opinion on the whole thing is whether it’s going to help us with listing, I’m 100% behind,” Jones told the Standard-Examiner.
Jones thinks the school has done a good job of marketing, its programs and its accomplishments during his seven-year tenure as principal.
However, registrations have stagnated, he said. The school has about 170 students split between grades 9 and 12 and it is unclear whether adding eight-player football would attract more students.
Economic inflation is occurring at levels not seen in decades and is squeezing family budgets, so are parents really going to flock to a private school and pay tuition just so their kids can play football ?
Another hurdle for the school to kick off football in time for the fall is finding the “right person” to be a head coach, meaning someone who is willing to spend time building the program, Jones said.
Currently, most preparatory football teams have completed most of their off-season training and are following spring football training.
Generally speaking, April is seen as ‘late in the game’ to effect a coaching change, let alone start a new football program.
“I’m a football guy, a longtime football manager and I love the idea, but it’s happening pretty fast,” Jones said. “I guess my biggest issue right now is that we’re trying to figure out if it’s really a good decision or not.”
EIGHT-PLAYER FOOTBALL EXPLAINED
Jackson said 1A and 2A non-soccer schools are eligible to play eight-player football, as are 1A schools that have been in the bottom three of the RPI rankings for the past three years.
There are a few dozen non-football schools in 1A and 2A that could potentially be interested in joining the six schools already committed, though they would likely have to move their fall baseball seasons to spring first.
A likely scenario will be that schools gauge interest, find there is enough, but want more time to start a program and aim for 2023 – St. Joseph could still do that – to start playing under the UHSAA’s upcoming realignment.
Eight-man football can be an option for schools for multiple reasons, ranging from declining enrollment, declining attendance, geographic convenience, competitiveness, or any combination thereof.
Eight-man football moved from talk to an action item in March because the UHSAA felt it had enough schools to make it work, Jackson said.
Rich High School principal Rick Larsen said he was excited about the prospect of eight-man football. Just eight years ago, Rich was celebrating a 1A State Championship victory. Since then, the Rebels have mostly struggled with a combined 6-43 record since 2017.
“My community is torn apart. We’ve been 11 players for so long they’re like, ‘Wait a minute, this is a watered down version of football,’ Larsen said. “I don’t think it is, once you watch it.”
The main schematic differences between 11-man football and eight-man football occur at the line of scrimmage.
Offenses in eight-player football typically play with three offensive linemen, a quarterback, and a mix of guards and receivers. Defenses usually play with 2-3 players in each position group, but can switch positions if needed.
Schools will have the option of playing their matches either on an 11-man field or an eight-man field. An eight-man football pitch is 80 yards long between the goal lines instead of 100, and 40 yards wide instead of 53 1/3 yards wide.
Jackson said any state championship game would be held at a college venue on an 11-man field.
But fewer players in a football game that is normally played on an 11-man pitch means more empty space and more points. For example, an eight-man semifinal in Iowa ended 108-94.
Sixteen of Idaho’s 46 eight-man football teams averaged 41 or more points per game on offense last season, according to MaxPreps. Conversely, only five 11-man teams have averaged 40 points per game or better in the state’s four 11-man classes.