The Rise Of 8-man Football In Chenango County And The Rest Of New York State

By: Meagan Schulz

The rise of 8-man football in Chenango County and the rest of New York State Former Marauders’ senior Cody Beckwith breaks loose for a big gain in Sherburne-Earlville’s 34-20 win over West Canada Valley in 2018. Sherburne-Earlville is one of the three teams in Chenango County that are currently playing 8-man football. (Submitted Photo)

Chenango County has seven high school football programs and of those seven, three – Unadilla Valley, Sherburne-Earlville and Oxford – switched to the 8-man format, instead of the traditional 11-on-11 game, that most have been used to for years.

There are not many differences to the two styles of play. 

The size of the field is reduced along with the number of players. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) is sticking with the common 120-yard long, 53 1/3-yard wide fields at high schools or off-campus venues.

Offenses are required to line up five players on the line of scrimmage, instead of the seven required in traditional football.

The games are still played as 12-minute quarters. All current kicking plays in the game and the rules are the same.

The strategy of the game is where the game changes the most because of the speed. According to Art Rigas, Unadilla Valley’s head coach, the game is played much faster.

“You rely a lot more on your position players and their quickness of getting to the ball or making the play,” said Rigas, who will be coaching his second season in the 8-man division of Section IV.

While the switch to 8-man was not preferred by all or any of those coaches, they have adapted over the past season and are preparing for the upcoming campaign – which will officially open on August 29 with the first day of practice.

The reason for the switch to 8-man football for the three schools in our area are because of the decreased number of athletes that are coming out for try-outs before the season begins.

Most schools in New York State are still playing – or at least trying to play – the 11-on-11 game. However, Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA Executive Director, has stated that 8-man football is gaining momentum all over.

“I think the reason why [8-man football] is gaining the momentum is because of the fact that a community can still maintain it’s identity and still have competitive football at the school,” said Zayas. “If some of the schools throughout the state wanted to continue to play 11-man with the decreased numbers they have, they could go ahead and merge with another school.

“However, now that they are merged, they tend to lose some of the community value that they have earned over the past few decades.”

Common Misconceptions

Many think that participation numbers are low due to kids not wanting to put down their video game controllers or their phones because they would rather have a social life than play sports in school.

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