I’m guessing we’ve all heard the news. Congratulations on such great seasons Box Elder, DGS and Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap, now go kick rocks in Eight-Man is essentially what the MHSA is saying. Well that isn’t right.
The Montana High School Association’s Board of Directors met on Monday of this week to take preliminary action on reclassifying certain Six-Man football teams to the Eight-Man. That is the equivalent to letting a puppy play next to railroad tracks. It just doesn’t make sense. If you go by the book the enrollment numbers for some of these schools might make the case for moving teams up to a new class of play, but common sense tells you otherwise.
Take it from a guy who’s got some experience going through a transition from one classification to another. It’s not fun.
When I was a senior in high school my football team got moved from Class C Six-Man to Eight-Man. That was essentially taking something that had been successful for the previous two years and leading it the slaughter which is Eight-Man football in the Northern C just because our school was growing. The football team wasn’t growing but the band sure was (I played the tambourine). Just because the enrollment increases doesn’t mean the participation of athletes does the same.
Take for example Class C Six-Man runner up Box Elder. The Bears had their best season ever which ended just this past weekend losing to DGS in the State Championship. Now the MHSA wants to move a football team which just experienced success for the first time up to a class of football where they might not win a game. The Bears had only 14 boys out for football this season with seven of them being seniors.
The MHSA shouldn’t be using enrollment numbers to decide which classification of football you should be playing they should use the number able-bodied participants. I refrain from the use of the word participants because when a football team starts to experience success, some kids come out just to be a part of the team with no real intention of playing, which isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact it should be celebrated that these kids want to be a part of something.
I’m reminded of when my high school football team made the jump from Six-Man to Eight-Man football. What a way to go out, huh?
When you move from Six-Man to Eight-Man football you are adding two kids to the field of play that wouldn’t normally play unless you were up by 35 or down by 35. That isn’t exactly a recipe for success. And for my senior year, it wasn’t. Instead of winning games and hoping to win a state title, we were worried about surviving. It was like The Hunger Games out there.
Ok that last part was a joke, but it made every week of the season a struggle. By the grace of God we finished 4-4.
I guess I decided to write this article because I feel bad for the kids who will be seniors next season at some of these schools moving up. Mediocrity isn’t enjoyable and that’s what moving teams up to new classifications when they aren’t prepared creates.
Here’s the part of the article where I propose what I think should happen, I think the MHSA should leave well enough alone, for the time being.
I think that schools that have an enrollment above 65 students should begin the process of examining what numbers they are going to have coming down the pipeline in the next three to four years. Do a headcount and figure out whether or not you will have enough kids participating in football to be competitive in Eight-Man or Six-Man. Then those schools which will be moving up a classification should give the younger student-athletes a chance at success through JV games. While the varsity would be playing Six-Man football the junior high and JV (if numbers permit) should begin the process of playing an Eight-Man schedule. It is two completely different kinds of football.
Playing football at the wrong level isn’t fun. It takes a game that should be enjoyed and turns it into a punishment every Friday night or Saturday afternoon.
Football is cutthroat as it is, so why the rush by the MHSA to throw some schools into the fire?
Now lets just hope they don’t light me on fire for saying this.
Sean Ryan can be reached for comments or story ideas by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Mr_SeanRyan