8-man football keeps program at smaller schools

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LANSING, MI (WILX) -- Another 32 teams are fighting for the chance to win a state championship in eight overall divisions, but with a few less players.

But without eight-man football, those teams may not be able to play at all.

"It's just really provided a way for some of these schools that have always loved football in the past, to keep having it, enjoying it and loving it with just a few fewer people involved on the field," said Geoff Kimmerly, Media, content coordinator for MHSAA.

Like many schools in Michigan, football Fridays are the highlight of the week. There are schools that have smaller enrollment though, that can't field the numbers for an 11-man team.

"Whatever the reason was, they had fewer students in their program, but they really wanted to keep football alive. It's really mostly in these smaller towns across the state, that football is a huge deal in a lot of those communities, so this was presented as an option," Kimmerly said.

Two eight-man programs in the Lansing area, Portland St. Patrick's and Morrice, are playoff bound and thriving.

"Without eight-man football, Morrice would not have a football program at this point. We would have scrapped that probably eight years ago," said Kendall Crockett, Morrice head coach.

Crockett's been with the program since its inception and even before, serving as the assistant when the Orioles fielded 11 players per side.

"Learning the game was a series of mistakes...going in I was kind of blind," Crockett said.

Eight years later, Crockett's created a playing style as unique as the game itself.

"It's been great watching the eight-man program grow here, and the fans have really turned out and are starting to enjoy it...There's a lot of different things you can do from the eleven man game, and if you haven't seen eight-man football played by two good teams, come out and give it a try, because it's fun," Crockett said. "They needed to find a better situation for the size of their school and their program...I think they found it."

Morrice worked toward their quest for a second straight division one title Friday night as they're taking on New Haven Merritt Academy in their first round.

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