The problem of slumping enrollment figures and concerns about concussions has led to a transition from the traditional 11-player game of gridiron football to an 8-player game across Michigan in recent years. Ohio is no stranger to the effect, either, but it’s just starting to become an issue in the northwestern counties.
According to the Bryan Times, Toledo Christian and Holgate have already made the switch starting with this present season due to low participation. And now, Stryker is in talks with the other two schools — as well as Danbury — to form a new league specifically for the 8-man game.
The Panthers played an 8-man game against Holgate to open their season this year, and they have another scheduled against Toledo Christian later on. The two 8-man games are something of a test run for what will be a permanent 8-man program starting next year.
In addition to the enrollment and participation issues, Stryker had to cancel their game against Cardinal Stritch this past Friday night due to a high number of injuries sidelining players — a debilitating problem for a roster of only 19 athletes.
Some might see it as a tough choice to make, switching so soon after resurrecting the Panthers football program only two years ago, but head coach Kent Holsopple tells the Times it’s the way to keep the program viable in the long term and develop talent more quickly. Plus, Stryker’s junior high school football program is already playing the 8-man game as of this season, so the upcoming talent won’t have to shift to a different format.
But the 11-man program will continue through this year, and despite Friday’s cancellation, Holsopple says his team will be healed up and refreshed, fully prepared to finish out this season’s schedule.
As for the new league, Toledo Christian and Stryker have solidified their agreement, but Holgate and Danbury are still awaiting the official word from their respective school boards.