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8-man schools looking to expand

08/24/2014, 2:15pm PDT
By John Maffei

Teams need to double in number for championship status


Quarterback Jordan Battaglia (center) calls out the play to his seven teammates as the San Diego Jewish 8-man football squad practices for the season.

2014 PREP FOOTBALL SEASON PREVIEW

Scouting reports, key players and schedules for all the teams.

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It's a Catch-22.

The small schools in the San Diego Section would like to grow 8-man football. They feel a section-recognized championship would help credibililty.

Section Commissioner Jerry Schniepp has no problem adding an 8-man championship, but said there needs to be 15-16 schools playing the game to make that happen.

That's the rub.

There are only nine teams in San Diego playing 8-man football.

"Our biggest problem is we don't have a great number of schools playing 8-man," said Warner coach Wally Zittle. "We don't have a championship.

"So what do you play for?"

All of the current 8-man teams have total enrollments under 200.

Administrators at the current 8-man schools know this is a work in progress. The won't get to 16 schools overnight.

They also know the Frontier League, which doesn't have football-playing schools, but has similar enrollments to the 8-man programs, holds the key.

"No question about that," said Tom Helmantoler, a small-school advocate. "No one is asking schools to do something they aren't comfortable with.

"But there are several Frontier League schools considering football. For them, 8-man is the way to go."

Some of those schools include Del Lago Academy, King Chavez Community, Liberty Charter and Coleman Tech.

The current 8-man schools would love some of the other non-football schools like Gompers, Preuss, Chula Vista Learning and the three High Tech schools to consider the sport.

And they'd love to see smaller 11-man schools like The Rock, Mountain Empire, Escondido Charter, Calipatria, Vincent Memorial, Foothills Christian, Lutheran and Maranatha Christian take the step to 8-man.

"The 8-man game allows us to play football," said Kevin Allen, athletic director at St. Joseph. "Our kids love it. Our families love it.

"You learn life lessons through football.

"Come out and watch the games. It's the real deal."

Julian played 11-man football for decades. But last season the Eagles finished with 14 players.

So Julian will play 8-man this season.

"This is a pivotal year," said Julian coach Tim White. "Enrollments are down all over the county, so we need to grow the sport.

"We all play a number of Southern Section teams (which has 70 8-man teams in two divisions). It would be nice to stay in our county.

"I understand Jerry Schniepp's take on this. He doesn't want a watered-down championship.

"But 8-man needs a championship to lure in other schools."

Helmantoler is hoping progress to 12 teams might convince Schniepp to make a move. The feeling is that if 8-man can get to 12 teams, it can get to 16 in time.

"This is real football," said Zittle. We prepare, scout, watch film, practice - just like the big schools.

"Our students get just as excited."

The 8-man game is played on a field 40x100 yards, 10 yards more narrow than the 11-man game.

There are three interior linemen on offense with five eligible receivers.

"I hope 8-man is a trend," said Bill Stout, athletic director at Calvin Christian. "We're making the move next season because it's best for our school.

"It allows us to compete in football, but also addresses the health concerns of not having a huge roster. "We're moving for the betterment of the program and hope four or five other schools make the move with us."

john.maffei@utsandiego.com

8-MAN CITRUS LEAGUE

School/ Enrollment/ Football players

Ocean View Christian/ 100/ 19

Julian/ 160/ 24

Borrego Springs/ 150/ 15

St. Joseph/ 65/ 12

Vista Calvary Christian/ 100/ 15

San Pasqual Academy/ 65/ 13

Warner/ 65/ 19

8-MAN INDEPENDENTS

San Diego Jewish Academy/180/ 16

Christian Life

Note: Enrollment and player figures are approximate.

CANDIDATES TO PLAY 8-MAN

Calvin Christian

Coleman Tech

Lutheran

Liberty Charter

King Chavez Community

Chula Vista Learning

The Rock

Del Lago Academy

San Diego Academy

San Diego Calvary Christian

Vincent Memorial

Foothills Christian

Maranatha Christian

Calipatria

Mountain Empire

Escondido Charter

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