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Eight-man football is a type of American football, generally played by small high schools. Rules and formations vary greatly among states and even among different organizations, but the one constant is eight players from each team on the field at one time, as opposed to eleven-man football, which is played at larger high schools, the college level and in the NFL. As of 2012 schools in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin have eight-man football. There are also a few teams in Alaska playing eight-man football.
Differences from eleven-man
The main difference between 11-man and 8-man football is most notably the elimination of three players. It depends greatly on the type of formation used, but the eliminated players are commonly two offensive tackles and a wide receiver on offense and two defensive backs and a defensive lineman on defense.
The size of the playing field is often smaller in eight-man football than in eleven-man. Some states opt for a smaller, 80-yards-long by 40-yards-wide field (which is also used in six-man); other states, such as Oklahoma, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina and Idaho, keep the field of play at 100 yards long while reducing the width to 40 yards. Finally, some schools, such as those in north Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, play on a full-sized playing field.
There are several professional eight-man football leagues in the United States, due to the eight-man format being adopted by most indoor football leagues. These leagues usually use a 50-yard by roughly 25-yard field, as professional 8-man football is usually played indoors. There are some eight-man leagues that play outdoors, however; in Texas the American Eightman Football League (AEFL) plays on a 100-yard field, and in Illinois and Missouri, the Eight Man Football League (8FL) plays on a 60-yard field.
In terms of gameplay, eight-man football is quite different from its eleven-man counterpart. Due to a smaller field and fewer players, the tempo of the game is noticeably faster-paced. Scores tend to be higher, even in high school games where quarters are only 12 minutes long (rather than 15).
Especially in high school, a higher percentage of plays are trick plays; direct snaps, Wildcat formation plays, and fake punts and field goals are somewhat more common.
Variety of offensive play in eight-man football is significantly reduced due to the decrease in options resulting from fewer players. Formations usually require three players in the backfield (a quarterback and two running backs) and five on the line of scrimmage. The interior of the line consists of two guards and a center. Most often, the line players on the edges of the formation are tight ends, or are occasionally split wide as wide receivers.
Formations vary widely between schools and states, but commonly include the I formation and the T formation (sometimes referred to as "pro set"). Common plays include the counter, dive, option and sweep. Passing is usually not as common in eight-man as it is in the eleven-man game. In certain formations, the center or guards can be eligible to catch passes.
Due to the competitive imbalances that commonly occur between small schools, eight-man games sometimes end early due to the 45-point or "mercy" rule. Depending on the rules in force, when one team gains a 45-point advantage over the other, the game is either governed by a running clock for the remainder of the game or the game ends immediately. A team that has won in this fashion is said to have "45ed" the other team[clarification needed]. Beginning with the 2012 season, Iowa has adopted a 35-point running clock mercy rule that begins any time the point differential is 35 or more after the end of the first quarter (as opposed to the 11-man game, in which the same rule is invoked only after halftime).
Attempting the extra point kick after a touchdown is rare in eight-man, due to the lack of specialized kickers and holders and the inability to block defenders from interfering with the kick. For this reason, teams often attempt a two-point conversion instead.
In some states that use an 80-yard field, infractions that normally result in a 15-yard penalty are reduced to 10 yards in eight-man ball. Often, however, the penalty yardage is still the same as in eleven man football. And likewise, on touchbacks, the ball is spotted on the 15-yard line instead of the 20.
General defensive alignments in eight-man football consist of defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. The most common formation is a 3-3-2, in which three defensive linemen (usually a nose tackle and two defensive ends) line up in a "down" position, with three linebackers standing behind, either stacked over the down linemen, lined up on the inside shoulder of the linemen, or on the outside shoulder of the linemen. Two defensive backs then have coverage responsibilities, either with deep halves or man-to-man with the offense's receivers.
The 3-2-3 defense has gained popularity due to the increase of passing-oriented offense in the eight-man game. It substitutes a third defensive back for a linebacker.
Alternate formations include 4-3-1 (linemen-linebacker-safety), 3-4-1, 4-2-2 and 5-3 among others.
Popularity in Israel
The Israeli Football League, an eight man league was established in Israel in 2005 with three teams, Haifa Underdogs, Tel Aviv Pioneers and Tel Aviv Sabres. The league was established by Israeli players and activists under the leadership of Ofri Becker, and though playing without equipment, this was the first ever tackle football league in this country, named Israeli Football League (IFL). in the end of that year the Haifa Underdogs won the first championship, beating the Tel Aviv Pioneers. In March 2008, at the end of the first season played in full gear, the Big Blue Jerusalem Lions defeated the Real Housing Haifa Underdogs 24 - 18 in overtime in Israel Bowl I. In Israel Bowl II in April 2009, the Dancing Camel Modi'in Pioneers defeated the defending champions Big Blue Jerusalem Lions 32 - 26 after two overtimes. The game was decided by a whole field interception return for a TD by Pioneers' Ohad Naveh. That season was played with five teams after the expansion franchise of Jerusalem Kings was added. The 2009-2010 season was played with seven teams, introducing two new franchises, the Beer Sheva Black Swarm and the Judean Rebels. In the 2010-2011 season, an eighth team was added (The Herzeliya Hammers), and the league was split into 2 divisions, IFL North and IFL South. The 2011-2012 season saw 10 teams, with five in each division, North and South. The North Division consisted of the three Tel Aviv-area teams: the Sabres, Pioneers and Hammers; as well as the Haifa Underdogs and Naharia North Stars. The South Division was made up of the three Jerusalem-area teams: the Rebels, Lions and Kings; as well as the Petah Tikva Troopers and Be'er Sheva Black Swarm. The IFL continued to expand for the 2012-2013 season, adding another Tel Aviv-area team, the Rehovot Silverbacks. Due to the odd number of teams, the IFL abandoned the North and South Divisions, and now each team plays every other team in the league one time during the 10 game season.
Popularity in Ireland
An Eight man league is also played in Ireland. This league, named DV8, is used as developmental league for rookies before they go on to compete in the 11man IAFL. In 2009, six teams will compete in the DV8 league - Dublin Dragons, Edenderry Soldiers, Trinity College Dublin, Craigavon Cowboys, UCD Sentinels and Erris Rams
Popularity in Alaska
Recently in Alaska there have been two eight man football teams created. The only two towns playing right now are Point Hope and Voznesenka. The two teams played the first eight man football championship in 2009, where Point Hope won 27-20. The teams have been playing JV teams as opponents along with scrub teams created from nearby towns. Many people in the state think that eight man football is a good idea to keep kids occupied on something new. In the future more eight man teams may pop up across the state.
Competition with larger schools
Occasionally, schools in a small division with larger enrollments are forced to play eight-man, despite having a player turnout sufficient for eleven-man. This is done when the school in question has no other schools of similar size nearby.
In addition, teams have been known to play combination eight- and eleven-man games, in which both teams compromise by fielding eight players per team when School A is on offense and School B is on defense and 11 players when School A is on defense and School B is on offense.
- 8FL Eight Man Football League
- Kansas 8-Man Football Association
- Missouri 8-Man Football Coaches Association
- Nebraska 8-Man Football Coaches Association
- Judean Rebels homepage, of the Kraft Family Israeli Football League
- In Iowa, for example, schools are allowed to use the 80-yard field, but all penalty yardage remains the same as in the 11-man game. See www.IAHSAA.org