Eight-man football at Soroco | SteamboatToday.com

Eight-man football at Soroco

Superintendent cites safety and enrollment as concerns

Mike McCollum

— After more than 50 years of football in South Routt, Rams fans will see eight-man football next year.

Andy Johnson, athletic director for the South Routt School District, said dwindling enrollment and low participation is preventing Soroco from fielding a competitive 11-man team.

“We had 21 kids rostered at the beginning of the year, but we have not and will not dress 21 players for a game,” Johnson said. “We got kids, if not injured, that never come off the field.”

The Rams, depleted by injuries, fielded only 15 players on Oct. 5 in a 35-12 loss against Hayden. Half of those who dressed were freshmen.

“We have some very small athletes playing against some very large athletes,” said Superintendent Kelly Reed. “The more players you have the more choice you have on who plays.”

Enrollment at Soroco High School is at 125 students, which is under the 126-student threshold set by the Colorado High School Activities Association for membership in the 1-A division, which is 11-man football’s smallest league in Colorado.

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Johnson said CHSAA looks at enrollment as an average figure throughout a three-year cycle. Because of a large graduating class last year, the Rams’ average is still high enough to warrant playing 1-A.

“Although we have the enrollment numbers now, the projection is that we are going to be down in the next cycle, so it’s something we are going to move to,” said Johnson, who noted enrollment numbers are down in grades six through eight.

“Those middle school kids are going to be our high-schoolers,” he said. “And if you already look at our roster numbers, a lot of times our opponent’s rosters are double ours.”

Several differences distinguish eight-man football from 11-man. On offense, two offensive tackles and a wide receiver are usually removed, while on defense, two defensive backs and a defensive lineman are eliminated.

Colorado eight-man football rules keep the field of play at 100 yards long, but reduce the width to 40 yards.

Johnson said the move is prompted by enrollment, not cost, because the district is expected to save little money by playing eight-man football.

“We’ll still suit up the same number of players, but just fewer of them will be on the field,” he said. “It is just because of our numbers with our rosters – making them more in line with opponent’s rosters.”

Johnson said he is applying to two eight-man football leagues – the central division of the north conference and the western division of the west conference – for admission.

In the Western Division, the Rams would play North Park High School and Vail Christian, while in the Central Division, the Rams would play Dove Creek and Norwood high schools.

Because Soroco is eligible for 11-man football until 2009, Johnson must convince the leagues that the Rams warrant admission to eight-man league play. If Soroco isn’t accepted to either league until 2009, then the team will play as an independent, prohibiting the Rams from postseason play.

Johnson said switching to eight-man play is in the best interests of Soroco football.

“Parents of the team feel this is the way to go – for safety and a chance to be more competitive.”

– To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208

or e-mail mmccollum@steamboatpilot.com