If you were to genuinely ask someone ‘hey, what’s football,’ they would most likely give you a facial expression packed with a whole lot of judgement. But if you were to ask that same person ‘hey, what’s 8 man football,’ you might have them stumped.
And that’s not to take anything away from a team like Christian Collegiate Academy where the Bulldogs say they’re playing the same game expect maybe even faster at stop number 10 on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 days.
Head Coach Steve Spinks said, “(What is 8-man football?) 8-man football is just football. There’s a big misnomer out there that people just think, ‘well, it’s just different.’ It’s really not. If anything, it’s faster.”
Christian Collegiate Academy might break down the huddle with three fewer people on each side of the ball, but that doesn’t change the name of the game. “It’s just football with less people.”
“Basically, football is still football.”
“Football is football.”
Definitely the same sport, but definitely some glaring differences as well, starting on the offensive line. Offensive/ Defensive lineman Ethan Newsom said, “On 11-man, there’s five lineman down. But on 8-man, there’s only three. So there’s two less people to account for – four less to account for.”
Not to mention one fewer skill position guy and five players on the line of scrimmage as opposed to seven prior to the snap.
On defense, it’s a lot of man coverage and kick offs have a 15-yard buffer as opposed to 10. Finally, gridiron dimensions are supposed to be 80 by 40 yards even though the Bulldogs often find themselves playing on the traditional 100 by 53 yard field. All that being said, CCA is still putting in the same work. Offensive/ Defensive Lineman Gregory Haywood said, “People just think it’s easier than 11-man football. You work the same either way. If you play football, even 11-man versus 8-man, you’re still working just as hard.”
Running back/ middle linebacker Houston Mack said, “My friend, he asked me – he was like – how y’all play? I was just like 11-man. Just like three people are missing. That’s it.”
As part of the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools, CCA is coming off a 4-7 showing in 2019 with a 2-2 mark in class 1A district 2 games.
Perhaps a rebuilding year for the Bulldogs with just two seniors on a 15 man roster or maybe that turnaround is already underway. “We’ve got a good team. We need to work harder. We need to fight harder in practice and don’t give up when we do one or two things wrong. I feel that was our biggest loss last year is when we would get upset with ourselves and then we’d use that anger and then pretty much just fall apart. I think this year we have a pretty strong team and we’re all like brothers, so I feel like we’re going to go places this year.”
“Our goal is the state championship, but we’re not going to get there from looking at the state championship. We’ve just got to take care of business one game at a time.”
The Bulldogs are actually just a few years removed from a state title game appearance in 2015 under the watch of former Head Coach Joe Roberts. Coach Roberts passed away in April, leaving behind a legacy of passion both on and off the field. “And he was a fierce guy, but deeply loved by these players and they miss him.”
“Coach was definitely hard on us because he was always pushing us to be better men and better people and he would always remind us of that. So I’m not just playing football to play football, I’m playing it for Coach, too.”
During the last four or so years of the Coach Roberts era, CCA sent at least one player off to the next level to play college football. One last simple reminder that as the Bulldogs pride themselves on getting one percent better every day, they’re doing so while playing a game that is in fact 100 percent football.
“Every day we come out here and work to get one percent better.”
“Like Greg said, one percent better.”
“One percent better. We have 100 days that Coach says. 100 days, you come out of here one percent better, you get 100 percent better in 100 days.”
“I say come out and watch us. Just come out and give us a shot and come look at the game and see it. Come check it out and you’ll be surprised. Actually, I think you’ll be impressed.”
The Bulldogs have started an award in Coach Roberts’ honor, going to one player each year that represents what it means to be the consummate teammate.
CCA will kick off its 2020 season a week from tomorrow at Prentiss Christian without having lost a single game due to COVID-19.