Holley is switching to 8 man football

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 20 March 2018 at 12:46 pm

In recent years a dwindling number of participants has caused problems for many small football playing high schools across the state.

In order to keep their football programs going some schools have turned to merging with neighboring districts, such as Medina and Lyndonville have done for the past several years. Others have turned to another alternative – 8 man football – and that is the direction Holley is taking.

“It’s a done deal. We’re going to play 8 man football this fall,” said Holley Athletic Director Dan Courtney. “Our numbers have been low so this came around at the right time for us and we’re going to give it a try. It’s nothing new. Eight man football has been around for a long time and is played in many states. We want to give our kids the opportunity to continue to play football and this provides us the chance to do that.”

Section V has given its approval for 8 man competition, a decision which follows the Section III (Central New York) move to form an 8 man division last year. That division included Cooperstown, South Lewis, New York Mills, Bishop Grimes, Oriskany and Pulaski.

“Our coaches and players are excited that we will have football,” said Hawks head Coach Wil Prince. “We’re really excited. We’ve done our research and have talked to the Section III people and they have nothing but positives to say about it. I think it will really help us. It really was going to 8 man or nothing so it is a way for us to not only keep football but to build the program.”

Some of those Section III schools likely loom as possible opponents for Holley this fall as to date CG Finney is the only other Section V school to indicate its plans to go to 8 man football though Courtney notes several other districts have expressed interest.

“Schools have until August to make a decision to switch from 11 to 8 man football so we will have to see what schools choose to do so but playing some of the Section III schools is something we’re looking at,” noted Courtney.

Played on a regulation field 8 man football requires a minimum squad of only 12 players as opposed to the 16 which the state requires for an 11 man team.

Interestingly, for Holley the switch to 8 man football is almost going back to the Hawks gridiron roots as when Genesee Region League (then Genesee Orleans League) schools formed football teams after World War II they were 6 man teams. Holley in fact played 6 man football from 1948-1955 before dropping the sport until it was reinstated as 11 man football in 2002.