West Grand mulls move to 8-man football
October 15, 2009
West Grand High School will be moving to an 8-man football team next year unless the district decides to opt-out.
With only 107 students enrolled at the high school, West Grand has dropped below the 126-student cutoff for the 1A Football Conference, which fields the traditional 11-man team.
In 2008, an enrollment of 149 kept West Grand in the 1A league playing teams such as Hotchkiss (257), Meeker (186) and Paonia (189) in the Western Slope district.
The last time the team made the first round of playoffs in that conference was 2005 when it went to the quarterfinals.
Conferences are re-evaluated every few years.
“We have the lowest enrollment in the state for a team playing 11-man football,” head coach Chris Brown told the school board Tuesday, Oct. 13. “We are really out of our league trying to field an 11-man team.”
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With players injured and sick, this past week was the first since school started that the team had all its players in uniform.
Freshman and sophomores are being asked to start on the varsity team, often playing against juniors and seniors twice their size from other teams, Brown said. Then they are turning around and playing JV games as well.
“Even if we have more enrollment next year with the rising 8th grade, we will still be under the cutoff for the 8-man conference,” Brown said.
The primary differences in format is that in eight-man football the lineup loses two lineman and a backfield player. The field is a little narrower and the games score higher, Brown said.
There are more 8-man football teams in the area, Brown added, and so travel time would be reduced.
The team would most likely join the Central Division, playing teams such as Gilpin, North Park, Vail Christian, and Justice in Boulder. It would hit the top of the class as far as enrollment rather than the bottom.
Players would also have more opportunity to specialize in positions, Brown said.
There are 15 or 16 schools in the area that used to play 11-man and are now playing 8-man, he said.
“In the ’90s, when we were really good, we were at 200 [enrollment]. Now the top schools in the 1A class have 275 kids,” Brown said.
Brown argues that the team could once again have a chance of taking a state title if they played 8-man football.
“We can either continue trying to make the playoffs in 11-man or we can have a chance to compete for the state championship in 8-man. I’ve seen the trophies and they’re the same size,” Brown said.
If the high school opts to play up instead, it must make its final decision by Nov. 10 otherwise it will be automatically enrolled in the 8-man conference.
– Reid Armstrong can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610 or firstname.lastname@example.org.