VHSL considering 8 man football

Just read and watched a video (http://www.nbc29.com/clip/14631521/vhsl-explores-creating-league-for-8-m...) discussing states and high schools going to 8 man football teams due to the participation number drop-off. Thoughts on how this may impact the game in the commonwealth?

DISCLAIMER: Forum topics may not have been written or edited by The Key Play staff.


I know when I played (@ Bassett, 10-15yrs ago) we had nearly 70 on varsity and like 50 on jv. Pretty sure they're struggling to find enough guys to field either now. I know times have changed and the program isn't winning remotely as much as we did, but damn. Don't kids wanna hit each other anymore?

Amateur superstar and idiot extraordinaire.

It's a combination of a number of things... soccer is becoming much more popular, more and more parents are growing wary of the potential risks of concussions and other injuries inherent in football, and there are a lot more extra-curricular activities pulling kids away from sports across the board.

And enrollments are way down in SWVA right now. Lots of schools that played double A football are now in Division 2 (which is basically big school Group A) now.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

True. We were D4-AA back then and were on the cusp of having to potentially move up (but we would've been a tiny D5. I think they're D3 now.

Amateur superstar and idiot extraordinaire.

Plenty of concussions happening in soccer too.

I agree, but no where near as much intense head to head contact every 30 seconds.

Yes, they happen, sure. But having two lines of players bashing their heads into each other 75 times a game isn't a core tenet of soccer, whereas it happens in pretty much every football game.

I'm not really sure I buy the soccer angle for Virginia. VA plays school soccer in the spring. Travel soccer is in the fall, but you can play a varsity sport for school and play travel soccer (I did it).

Doesn't really matter when the varsity season is, one of the big reasons for smaller football rosters is "specialization". Kids typically pick one sport and play it year round. There are still multi-sport stars, but they're becoming less and less common.

Bassett Sucks.....Damn river rats

My HS (Park VIew AA - Sterling , VA) canceled VAR football this season as they only had 18 people come out, and half had never played. This is a school that won a state title before and have had NFL caliber players in the past. First time in Loudoun County this has ever happened where an established school/program couldn't field a team. Won't field varsity in 2019 either as they attempt they to rebuild program.

Honestly, it won't affect too much at the top levels. There might be a handful of D5 and D6 schools that switch, but probably not enough to really be noticeable, and certainly not enough to really affect the quality of the playoff-level teams. I expect it'll mostly be felt around the D1 and D2 levels, since they are all the smaller schools to begin with and likely don't have more than 20 players on the roster on average, which really isn't enough for a full football team anyway.

I feel like participation numbers are just gonna continue to fall due to CTE research. Football is my favorite sport but I'm not sure I would encourage my (potential future) children to play it.

"For those who have passed, for those to come, reach for excellence."

When my oldest son was 6 yrs old (15yrs old now) I was all pumped for him playing football. By the time he hit 11/12 yrs old I was like "you don't have to play if you don't want to"...lol... those kids were all hitting like men...he still plays but man I stay nervous....

We went thru a long debate about this. My son played soccer for 6 years. He asked to play football for 2 years before we relented. Couldn't be happier with our decision. Here is our rationale:

1. He banged heads multiple times in soccer. He's a physical kid.

2. The football coaches do a nice job limiting hitting. They probably only hit 2 days a week. No Oklahoma drill type of stuff to establish toughness. Lots of just shoulder pads practices in hot conditions.

3. We felt the physical exercise was really important for a slightly pudgy kid. And sure enough, by 13, he was at offseason weight lifting 3x a week. He's changing his body.

4. Football, more so than his basketball and soccer teams, is so much more tied to camaraderie. It's a band of brothers.

5. Socially, it's a big deal. He was bookish before, friends with the smart kids. Distant socially. Now, his friend circle is broad and diverse. He has much more social confidence.

6. Like the military, rules are good for young men. He responds really well to the structure.

7. Finally, yes, worried about concussions but they just aren't moving that fast.

We are in one of the winningest HS programs in the state. We have 50 kids on varsity and 28 on JV. Most teams have half that number.

That's why we did it. Not for everyone but we thought about it a lot.

Thanks for sharing. I was falling into the 'why would anyone let their kid play football' camp, but clearly it makes sense for some.

Hokie fan | W&M grad

NFL moving to Thursday's and ESPN moving to Friday's only diminish interest in HS football. This week is the first time I can remember when ESPN has Power Five Conference games of interest on Friday, not Thursday.

ESPN has had P5 (mostly ACC) games on Fridays for the past few seasons.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

A couple times, sure. But, this year there were 6 (SIX) week 1 games featuring P5 teams; TCU in week 2; and this week there's 2 conference games (PSU-Illinois and WSU-USCw), plus FAU and "P6" team UCF.

There are 11 games featuring P5 teams on the next 8 Fridays. All 11 are conference games, with 5 from the PAC-12, 4 from the ACC, and 2 from the Big Ten. Black Friday features SEVEN P5 conference games, covering all 5 P5 conferences. The only Fridays between now and the end of the regular season without a P5 conference game are weeks 8 and 12, both of which feature Boise State, who is pretty much the most popular G5 team.

This is starting to get out of hand.

It's coming along with a large minority of schools getting rid of JV football.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

I think it would be good for the 1A and 2A schools

When in doubt. Nap it out

Just 15 years ago in high school, we were taught to diversify and play different sports year round. Now kids only play one sport, all year long. All the wide recievers at my school played basketball, some played track, etc. Now that's frowned upon. Even youth baseball, ugh, the stories I could tell of 8 yrs olds with dads talking about MLB scouts seeing their son pitch...is now a year round thing.

TKPhi Damn Proud
BSME 2009

Hell, at my high school, it was a requirement to play another varsity sport during the offseason if you wanted a spot on the football roster, due to VHSL rules about offseason workouts and practice.

I HATE the fact that kids are now forced to pick one sport. I've seen countless interviews with college coaches who say they prefer kids who played multiple sports. There is also research that says there are less injuries and lower burnout rates.

The problem the single sport focus that is now allowed in VAHSL. 15 or so years ago kids could play two or three different sports, now that isn't possible. Because kids can play a single sport, and because the coaches can be involved most of the year, kids hands are being forced.

Those two and three sport athletes simply don't exist like they used to.

Is it basketball season yet?

So they actually changed rules to allow more offseason work?

Yes they did. There are mandatory no contact times at the beginning of each sport season. So when spring sports start football can't do anything for 10 days. There is also a dead period around July 4th each year. But other than those times they can actually practice.

Wow, all state in 4 sports is an amazing accomplishment

I will be curious to see how this impacts skill position players statistically. It appears there are fewer skill position players on the field (At least from what I saw initially) which tend to be your better athletes. Get a stud RB against 3 fewer players and the numbers may become inflated.

But if it is the difference b/w having a program vs not then I think it needs to be explored.

Anyone know how VHSL handles kids currently that want to play HS football where football program was cancelled? It is not like parents can move school zones for their kids often. Does VHSL give a waiver for a kid to attend a different school in that case?

8-on-8 is played on a narrower field. In theory, it should balance out, but then again the coach in that video said that their first 8-on-8 game was 64-56, so maybe you're right.

Small schools in AZ (we call it 1A) play 8 on 8 and it seems like every game is a track meet. A ton of 52-48 and 72-0 games, especially with the big city charter and prep schools playing rural mountain towns that don't have the talent. The smaller field does not adjust nearly enough.

Sounds like arena football played outside.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

I was still in high school when they banned "bull in the ring" which was a kid standing in the middle getting rocked repeatedly until he could stand up the guy coming in. Hindsight being 20/20 that drill was beyond reckless

Ha! Sounds like a wrestling drill we did. Everyone ran in a circle, and shoved the smallest first into the middle. We couldn't get out the middle til we pinned somebody. Then the loser got stuck in the middle, until he could pin his way out. Didn't matter if it was 215 or HWT, and when you're 130, that's....not easy.

TKPhi Damn Proud
BSME 2009

Bull in the ring, one on ones, Oklahoma drill, all pretty nasty. We used to have a lot of contact in practice when I played in the late 90's. I separated my shoulder and had at least one probable concussion in practice. Our scout team work was full contact, and their were serious collisions often. Back then it was called getting your bell rung when you got hit hard, saw a flash, had ringing in your ears and were disoriented for some time. You took a play off and went back in. I know that several teammates and I have discussed the good old days and can remember getting hit and not being able to recall whole series afterward. Pretty scary really.

I think the game and the preparation has changed for the better. The amount of attention and the steps to minimize danger have done a lot to make the sport safer. Risks are still there, but the sport is moving in the right direction in terms of player safety. It's a shame all the risks that are involved, because I think football is an excellent sport that teaches young kids some wonderful lessons in life. I think I'm a better person for the experiences that I had, however I can tell you when a cold front is coming in from the aches and pains I have from being a battering ram. In hindsight I wouldn't change a thing, but for some people the price was much higher.

We had a play in a JV game on Wednesday night where our best player was set to return a punt. The punt was low and left (JV kids don't punt so well.....) and was rolling out of bounds. Our punt returner took a wide swoop towards the sideline where one of the opposing players was tracking the punt to down it. Our guy blind sided the kid, knocking his feet into the air. It was right on their sideline, in front of their fans.

Our guy was flagged for unnecessary roughness and kicked out of the game. The parents on the other side were livid, as you could expect. Without instant replay, my take was that our guy launched himself and may have led with the head as well. From my perspective, that's bad football bingo: unnecessary + launching + helmet2helmet. I didn't mind our guy being kicked out of the game.

But some of our fans were grousing that it's just part of the game. He's a good kid, he was just trying to play hard and set a physical standard of play, but that's the crap we need to get out of the game.

I would start with "is a hit necessary or not?" as the baseline. Anything that isn't necessary, crackback blocks on the other side of the field, I'm fine with getting rid of. Launching also seems pretty obvious, let's stop that altogether. Seems pretty easy to police that as well. Helmet2Helmet is harder, you have the ballcarriers lowering their head making the defensive players choice very limited.

The feeling of leveling someone with a good clean hit is unmatched, however 14-18 year olds don't always get themselves in that position and it ends up being helmet to helmet often. Good coaching and preparation goes a long way in the sport now versus playing with reckless abandon

I agree. Coaches always used to say keep your head on a swivel, because if you didn't you were gonna get lit up. It's usually a lot worse on punts due to teams tracking the ball while others are blocking. In a way, getting blindsided teaches you a lot about situational awareness and keeping yourself in a position to safely take a hit, but those lessons can be devastating.

It's funny because those peel back hits are the ones that fans love but for safety are the ones that should go. One of our most storied highlights was Ward's block against WVU on Andre Davis's punt return. The defender had no chance to make the play and got absolutely obliterated. The announcers cheered and reviewed the highlight with much praise, and you can't help but watch the hit multiple times when you pull up the clip. But ultimately, this is the kind of play eluded to above that should probably be removed for safety. It's a big part of the draw to the game, so it's a difficult paradox.

Oklahoma (which is what we called it at EHC, it was called "Hamburger" in HS) drill represented the type of critical in game situation where smarts and toughness have to win out, particularly short yardage situations.

Bull in the ring was utter stupidity.

At the very least, practices like treating water as if it was a privilege have pretty much died out. Of my memories of football, having to run 50 yards to stand in line and drink water from a garden hose hooked into a steel pipe with holes drilled in it (public health concern anyone?) for a half second and then running back ranks at the bottom of the list. Once I got to EHC, it blew my mind how there was constantly water and gatorade available anytime you were not actively engaged in a drill. It was then I realized that some of the "Junction Boys" practices of high school coaches at that time served no actual purpose in preparing their players for success.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

1000 times yes to the water. Ours was a plastic PVC pipe wired up to a chain link fence with holes drilled in it, and there were actually fights between kids trying to get some water before the whistle blew to get back to doing drills. I can remember nonstop insatiable thirsts and there was never enough time or opportunities to re-hydrate. It's amazing we didn't have more injuries due to this. To be honest, there probably was but you just didn't hear about it.

I can understand the toughness thought to hitting, but I never understood keeping kids from getting water. When you can't concentrate on your assignment because of unrelenting thirst, that's a very correctable problem.

Thanks for pointing this out. The Oklahoma drill is a legitimate teaching drill. It doesnt have to be at every practice but it is beneficial in moderation to build skills.

"with all due respect, and remember I’m sayin’ it with all due respect, that idea ain’t worth a velvet painting of a whale and a dolphin gettin’ it on" - Ricky Bobby

Southern WV has a similar problem with getting kids to come out and play. Greenbrier East, a school of 1000 kids and classified as AAA (highest level of classification in WV), can barely field a JV team. It would be interesting if they could somehow combine southwestern Virginia and southern WV and have their own league of 8v8 for teams who can't field 11 on both sides of the ball.

Marshall University student.
Virginia Tech fanatic.

Sounds like LOLUVA should consider this to bolster it's program.

Overheard as Duke assistant coaches took elevator down from press box: “Guys, they stopped the run with a three-man front.” - David Teel Tweet 2018