A8 No 9-man football.JPG

The Perrydale Pirates 8-man lineup gets set to kick off in a game last fall.

WILSONVILLE — The football programs at Perrydale and Falls City want to throw a flag on the Oregon School Activities Association — for too many men on the field.

The OSAA Football Ad Hoc Advisory Committee has recommended the end of 8-man football in Oregon. It would be replaced by 9-man football, starting next season.

Perrydale and Falls City are among those traditional, Class 1A 8-man schools who think nine men on the football field is one too many.

“Makes absolutely no sense,” Falls City coach Laric Cook said.

The idea seems to stem mostly from larger schools’ interest in a configuration (9-man) that more closely resembles their 11-man game. Schools then more easily could play across classifications at the junior varsity or freshman levels, and Class 2A schools struggling at 11-man could play 9-man varsity.

“Basically, I think it’s not a good thing,” Perrydale coach Steve Mabry said of the proposed change. “It helps Class 2A schools come down (to 9-man), and gives them a little more advantage size-wise. You’re giving an incentive to larger schools having bad years to play down.”

“I don’t see the point of doing 9-man instead of 8-man,” Falls City athletic director Dennis Sickles said. “I don’t believe we should do away with 8-man football. What they’re proposing is the worst thing for 1A schools.”

The OSAA football committee met for the first time on Dec. 20 and will meet three more times, making a final recommendation for the 2022-2026 time block to the Executive Board and Delegate Assembly, most likely in February.

The committee supports putting all the 2A and 1A schools into three groups. Two groups would be in separate 9-man football divisions, based on enrollment and each with its own state championship. The other group would be in a 6-man division, with its own championship.

Division 1 would be for schools with enrollment of 77 to 145 average daily membership.

Division 2 would be for schools with 56 to 77 ADM, including Perrydale and Falls City.

The 6-man division would be for schools with 55 or fewer ADM.

But schools may request to play up or down.

In the initial proposal, Perrydale and Falls City are joined by 24 other schools in Division 2: Adrian, Alsea, Bonanza, Cove, Crosspoint Christian, Dufur, Elgin, Imbler, Ione/Arlington, Lost River, Lowell, Lyle/Wishram/Klickitat, Mohawk, Myrtle Point, North Douglas, Powder Valley, Prospect/Butte Falls, Regis, Riddle, Sherman/Condon, St. Paul, Union and Yoncalla.

Division 1 has 28 schools, and the six-man division has 25 schools, with each division’s ultimate size still subject to those play-up or play-down requests.

The committee noted that fewer schools are playing 8-man football since the adoption of six-man football in Oregon four years ago, which only makes sense.

“We had 50 8-man schools in 2010,” said Tony Smith, committee chair and the athletic director and football coach at 1A St. Paul, which has played 8-man the past four years.

Last season, 28 schools (eight from 2A, 20 from 1A) played 8-man, and 22 schools (all 1A) played 6-man.

The committee suggested that, under the new set-up, some 11-man and 9-man schools would play each other in nonleague games, largely because it’s a fairly seamless change for coaches and players.

For 9-man, offenses basically remove two offensive linemen from their 11-man formations and add a running back or slot receiver from their typical 8-man sets.

Defenses for 9-man add a player in the secondary in going up from 8-man, and can go with various choices on defense, usually with three down linemen.

Four states – Wyoming, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota – have high school state tournaments in 9-man football.

“If 9-man football was so great, why are only a few states doing it?” Cook asked. “Why aren’t big football states, like California and Texas and Florida, doing it?”

Some states have used a smaller field for 9-man football, but the 9-man game in Oregon would be on a standard 100-by-53 1/2-yard field, as is used for Oregon 8-man and 11-man.

“When we were 11-man at St. Paul, we played some 9-man games in a 2A JV league for at least 12 years, and we’ve played 3A and some 4A freshmen or JV2 teams in 9-man games,” St. Paul’s Smith said.

The committee noted that turnout for high school football has been declining in recent years. Smith didn’t say how going from 8-man to 9-man would reverse that trend but said “I wouldn’t think it would decrease participation.”

At Perrydale, Mabry doesn’t see a plus in going to 9-man.

“I don’t see how it benefits us,” he said, “because we’re already chasing numbers, and now we’d have to fill 18 spots on the field (offense, defense), which is a huge difference from 16, in practices and games.”

At Falls City, Sickles and Cook also don’t see how going to 9-man would help, and they worry about having enough players to compete with larger schools.

“I’ve got 12 to 15 kids every year, between two schools (Falls City and Kings Valley Charter),” Cook said. “We finished a couple of games this year with only nine kids left.”

“Nine-man could adversely affect us,” Sickles said. “And it could force some schools to go to 6-man.

“The smaller 2A schools don’t want to compete with the larger 2A schools,” Sickles added. “A better solution would be to have a smaller 8-man division and a larger 8-man division, and use 6-man only as an emergency measure.

“I’d take the 16 teams that go to state for 8-man and send eight to the smaller playoffs and eight to the larger playoffs. You could end the season in mid-November and get boys off to winter sports on time.”

Cook and Sickles are adamantly against playing 6-man football.

“We absolutely will not play 6-man. That’s a joke of a game – a P.E., recess type of game,” Cook said. “But six-man is going to be the death of 8-man. Everybody wants a trophy.”

Perrydale and Falls City football people talk about the tradition of 8-man football, which has been around since the early 1960s.

“It would be a crying shame” to lose 8-man football, Cook said. “Three generations of my family have played it. It’s a tradition in a lot of communities. I don’t understand why they’re taking our game away.

“It’s been a sustainable thing, and it’s a great game. Nine-man is a watered-down version of 11-man.

“The 11-man community just doesn’t want to have to learn a new game (8-man).”

The committee will meet on Jan. 5, Jan. 19 and Feb. 2 at Wilsonville, before making its final recommendation.

Brad Garrett, OSAA assistant executive director, said “it is likely the group will have to schedule some additional meetings, depending on how the 9-player structure works out.”

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