HOLGATE — Struggling with numbers, Holgate announced the football program is switching from 11-on-11 play to 8-on-8 for the 2019 season.
The move stems from low numbers in the program. Holgate has just 13 players on its active roster, a number coach Colton Wagner said wasn’t realistic for a season of play.
“We started the summer with 17 players on the roster, but that’s dropped to 13, with only 12 being healthy to play right now,” Wagner said. “We had been trying to get some guys to join and to build excitement with things like new uniforms, but unfortunately we just weren’t able to get enough.”
Holgate Athletics Director Richard Finley said this was not the direction he saw the program going at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
“At the end of the year, we had numbers in the 20s, which is good for us,” Finley said. “But as the summer got on, those numbers started to plummet, and when we were in the low teens we realized it would be tough to get through a full schedule without having to forfeit games.”
Holgate announced in a tweet Tuesday the school was still trying to get the numbers up to field 11-on-11 football, but the decision was made Wednesday to begin preparing for 8-on-8 play.
“The district is working to keep football for our student athletes. Low numbers are plaguing us. We want to stick with the current 11-person team schedule; if that isn’t possible we’re pursuing the 8-on-8 team option,” the Holgate Schools account tweeted before making a plea to keep football.
“Honestly, I’m just happy that we are still providing kids at Holgate the chance to play football,” Wagner said. “We don’t know too much about 8-on-8 play just yet, but we’ve been working on getting more familiar with it using YouTube videos and things like that. It’s the same fundamentals, there’s just some finer changes to the game.”
The field in 8-on-8 football is still 100 yards from end-zone to end-zone but is just 40 yards across instead of the regulation 53 1/3 yards.
“The way I look at it, it’s really played inside the numbers,” Wagner said. “We’re still going to be running the same kind of offense, but we might be using slightly different personnel to get the job done.”
Holgate’s move away from 11-on-11 play had ripple effects across the Green Meadows Conference, as the team’s departure opens up a game in league play.
“I called the league today with the news so I could give them as much time to adjust for that as possible,” Finley said. “This way they can try and schedule a replacement game and not lose out on that game.”
As far as a schedule for 8-on-8 play, Finley said it’s still a fluid number but the team will hopefully play at least six games.
“We’ve got some agreements with schools already in place, but I still have some calls out to some programs, so there’s the potential for six or seven games right now and maybe as much as eight to 10. It’s still hard to tell exactly how many games we will have at this point.”
Finley said he hopes the move is temporary but that it’s difficult to project when the numbers could rebound to support 11-on-11 play.
“We are going to have to see what the numbers look like coming out of the junior high level right now,” Finley said. “It’s really going to be hard to tell at this point.”
Holgate is still on track to start coaching Aug. 1, and Finley said the move to 8-on-8 should not impact the existing timeline for starting the competitive schedule.
“This move should work with what was already in place for when we are starting the year,” Finley said. “Right now, we are just trying to fill out the schedule and get as much time on the field as we can.”