ELYRIA — After a one-year hiatus, football is back at Open Door Christian School — in a new format.
This season Open Door will be the first team in Northeastern Ohio and just the second team statewide to field an 8-man team.
The school started its football program in 2011 but a lack of players forced the Patriots to hang up their helmets prior to last season.
“When we canceled the season, we had a brainstorming session about how to bring football back at Open Door,” Patriots coach Ray Lowe said. “In the end, it’s a numbers game. For us, this is the best way to sustain a football program long term.”
Open Door head coach Ray Lowe and running back Caleb Daniel are pumped up to be back on the field after a year off ... and to be playing 8-man football.
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While 8-man football is not recognized by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, Open Door will still follow all OHSAA eligibility and safety guidelines and play according to the standard National Federation 8-man football rulebook.
There are a couple of big differences between 8-man football and the traditional 11-man style. For one, the 8-man football field is 40 yards wide as opposed to the standard 531⁄3. For another, offenses have to have five players instead of seven on the line of scrimmage prior to the snap.
“I thought it was kinda crazy at first but when coach explained the details to us I realized it was a great idea, it fits perfectly for our school,” said offensive/defensive lineman Jafet Hernandez, one of three seniors who have been with the program since the 2014 season.
“The transition won’t be as hard as we once thought it would be,” Hernandez said. “It’s just a blessing to be part of this new type of football. I’m just excited to be able to put on my pads and my helmet and represent Open Door one more time.”
Toledo Horizon Science Academy is the only other school in Ohio playing 8-man football although the Open Door administration thinks the number will grow in upcoming years as more smaller schools struggle to field 11-man teams.
“Eight-man football is a great opportunity for schools our size,” Lowe said. “We’ve talked to a number of other schools around the state and we could see 15 to 20, or maybe more schools, who might be interested in it in the future. We decided to be the trendsetters and pull the trigger with the hope to pull other schools in.”
Open Door will play a full 10-game schedule this fall, including five games in Michigan where 8-man football has been a recognized sport by the Michigan High School Athletic Association since 2010.
The Patriots will install a new scoreboard and permanent bleachers at the school so they can play all of their home games on campus for the first time. Previously, Open Door used Adelsburg Stadium at Midview High School for its home games.
The Patriots first home game will be Saturday, Sept. 3, against Lincoln-West, a Senate Athletic League program that has struggled with low numbers and is playing a mixture of eight- and 11-man games this year.
“It’s amazing to know we’re going to be able to play football at our own school, in front of our fans,” sophomore running back Caleb Daniel said.
While Daniel has only seen 8-man football on YouTube videos, he’s excited for the season to begin.
“It’s going to be a different experience but I’m just ready to play football,” Daniel said. “I just want to go out there and hit somebody. Like coach has explained to us, there’s nothing different except the numbers of the field.”
Lowe, too, has also only seen 8-man football on film, but he’s confident he will have his players ready to compete and expects to use many of the same offensive schemes he used two seasons ago, just adapted for the 8-man game.
“Football is football,” Lowe said. “Eleven-man, 8-man, 9-man, that’s just a lot of different numbers. It still comes down to blocking, running, tackling, catching the ball and scoring points.”
Sixteen states sponsor 8-man football championships. Traditionally the game features high scoring and favors the offense more than traditional football.
“I’ve talked to a lot of 8-man coaches and it’s not unheard of to have a lot 52-45 games,” Lowe said. “It’s a pretty exciting game. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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