St. John goes to 8-man football

Change affects area schedules

Eight-man football — there are just a few differences between it and the traditional 11-man game.

The field’s width shrinks to 40 yards in eight-man, while the length is 80, not 100 yards.

Depending on the formations used, two offensive linemen and a skill position are eliminated from the offense, while a defensive back, linebacker and defensive lineman are missing on defense.

Ashtabula St. John, which advanced to last year’s Division VII football postseason, is down to between 12 and 15 players. The Heralds have decided to move to eight-man football this season, which means their games will not count, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association, since the OHSAA does not recognize eight-man football.

Another school, Toledo Christian announced earlier this summer it is going to the eight-man format due to low numbers. More than 30 states sanction eight-man football.

Area schools Mathews, Chalker, Windham and Pymatuing Valley all had St. John on the schedule. Their responses to St. John’s move vary.

Pymatuning Valley and Windham both decided not to play an eight-man game, deciding instead to find a replacement opponent.

Lakers coach Neal Croston didn’t want a Week 6 game on Oct. 4 that didn’t count.

“We’re practicing 11-man football,” Croston said. “There wasn’t any reason in the middle of the season to play eight-man football. That was going to be right before our conference games.

“If we got an injury, it’s like a glorified scrimmage. Hopefully, we can play them in the future.”

PV is close to filling that spot with another 11-man team.

Windham coach Jake Eye, whose Bombers were scheduled to take on St. John on Oct. 11, also took the Heralds off the 2019 slate.

“Right now, it doesn’t benefit us to play an eight-player game,” Eye said.

There are a few candidates to fill the Week 7 slot.

Windham has 18 players on its roster, not many more than St. John.

“Lo and behold, by Week 7 we might be in the same boat,” Eye said.

Chalker thus far has kept its Week 10 game with St. John, a rematch of last year when the Heralds knocked the Wildcats out of playoff contention.

Mathews had an early scrimmage against Conotton Valley canceled and the Mustangs’ final scrimmage is Aug. 22. If the Mustangs dropped St. John on Aug. 30, Mathews would have to wait until Sept. 6 for its opener against Leetonia.

“If it was in the middle of the year, in Game 3 or 4, I would have said we could (drop the St. John game),” Mathews coach John Protopapa said.

The Mustangs are in good shape with their roster going from 21 to 24 in a year. Protopapa said there were 10 middle school players to take the place of five seniors from the 2018 season.

St. John just had a scrimmage against Richmond Heights cancelled. The Heralds will be coming into the Aug. 30 game with Mathews without a scrimmage.

“I feel bad,” Protopapa said. “They go from a playoff team to eight-man football. That’s got to be a blow to those kids there.”


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