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Pitching with Pritch PDF Print E-mail

Big decision looms ahead

By Larry Pritchett
Past PCHS activities director

As was reported in last week’s paper, Perkins County High School held a meeting for parents to lay out some options for the school’s football program. Declining enrollment has made it necessary to make some decisions about whether the school should continue to play 11 man football or make a move to eight-man.
Coach Wells had a presentation prepared and no matter how you sliced it, diced it, ignored it, or accepted it, the results pretty much led you to believe that eight man was the best decision in order to give the school a better chance of being successful.
Numbers are a big thing in football, and as I stated a couple of columns ago, more important in football than basketball. Even if deep down you would just as soon see the Plainsmen line up with 11 guys on the field, it just doesn’t appear that would be the way to go.
The days are gone when 40 or 50 boys decide to participate in the program. Matter of fact, the days are coming or maybe already here when there are 40 or 50 boys in high school and to think that you will get a 100 percent participation in the sport is not dealing with reality. So you do what you have to do to offer a program that gives your players the best chance to be successful.
Success, however, is not guaranteed just because you eliminate three players on offense and defense. Players in any sport still have to do all they can do to make the team successful and I am not sure sometimes that parents and participants really understand that.
You have to do the things in the off season to make yourself better. Lift weights, participate in other sports, improve your individual skills and anything else that will make you stronger and faster and improve the sports skills you need to possess, just to name a few.
There are lots of distractions in today’s world. It is easy to always start something tomorrow or next week. Everyone suffers from that just a little bit, but high school kids have a lot of people that line up to help them improve. You just do not go to bed one night and the next morning get up being a skilled athlete. It takes time, dedication and the ability to focus on what it takes to improve.
Now I am climbing down from the soapbox and thinking about what would change if the eight-man decision is made. First, the schedule. No longer would you see schools like Imperial, Hershey, North Platte St. Pats, Kimball and Bridgeport. All of those schools, I understand, are or soon will be members of the SPVA. You could, however, see Sutherland, Dundy County, and Oshkosh currently playing eight-man football.
The NSAA will set the schedule just like they do presently. PCHS would probably be in a district with five or six teams so there would be four or five games automatically on the schedule.
In the past we got to send a list of some other schools that we would like to play outside of the district. Sometimes you got those and sometimes you didn’t.
When the NSAA sets up the schedule, they have to take a lot of things into consideration, so sometimes your “Wish List” doesn’t become reality. I would think, however, that the number of miles traveled in a season would have a good chance to drop a little.
There are some rule differences. The field can be 40 yards wide and 80 yards long. There are no ineligible numbers and you have a minimum of five offensive linemen instead of seven. You kick off from the 30. Touchbacks and free kicks after a safety are from the 15. Those are National Federation Rules and I think the NSAA still follows those.
I do think one rule that is different is that at one time if one team led by 45 at half time the game was over, but now if there is a 35-point lead in the second half it is a running clock. I really need to check that out but I think it is correct.
Given it will be a change if that is the decision, it is clear to anyone who watches an eight-man football game, that it is indeed real football.
While the tradition-loving fans will probably complain some, the game still consists of blocking, tackling, and hitting. Speed is an outstanding asset on any football team, but the fewer players there are on the field the bigger asset speed becomes. Speed or lack of it is always a killer.
One difference is that in eight man it is hard, if not impossible, for the coach to hide a player. Every person on the field and his playing ability or lack thereof, will be plain to see. Because of that, and the limited numbers of most eight man squads, it can be a true coaching challenge.
The decision will be made in the November board meeting. The NSAA has a deadline that has to be met because I am sure their work on scheduling will begin immediately.
Whatever the decision, football will still be played at PCHS. Go Plainsmen!