I was in the office the other day formulating my plans for the All-U.P. Football meeting that will take place Thursday, Oct. 31 in Marquette, when I came to players to be considered that happen to play 8-Man football. It gave me pause.
In previous meetings this has been a point of contention since the 8-Man variety of the game has been around.
There's no getting around it, 8-Man gets a bad rap. Quality players on 8-Man teams are not looked at as equal to quality players on 11-Man teams. Some of the reasons are legitimate.
Simple logic says that if there are three fewer players on both sides of the ball, there is more space on the field. For speedy players, it's a gold mine and an opportunity to put up arcade-like numbers.
But then, why doesn't every quarterback, running back or receiver do this?
Sure some of the scores in 8-Man football reflect this open-space, big numbers theory. Cedarville beat Posen 42-40, Rapid River beat Engadine 54-28. But it goes the other way too, and there have been some games that highlight defense in the 8-Man game. Engadine beat Ewen-Trout Creek 20-6, Cedarville beat Bellaire 21-15.
Basketball type scores can happen in the 11-Man game as well, and there are players on 11-Man teams that play against weak competition all year and post inflated numbers, but we don't fault the team or the player for their schedule. Why should 8-Man players be faulted for something they can't control?
I think a big part of why players on 8-Man teams are viewed as secondary Class D players is because of a lack of exposure.
There are 8-Man teams in Delta County, out East near the Sault, out west near Ontonagon and the rest of the Bridge Alliance Conference is downstate.
Writers and broadcasters in the Marquette area, Houghton area Iron Mountain area and Menominee area may have never seen an 8-Man football game being played, yet are asked to vote on these players.
I can't fault UPSSA members from these areas for that. Each of them have commitments to their respective area teams on Friday nights, but I feel I need to get on my soapbox for this one.
If you are a UPSSA member and you are voting on the All-U.P. football team, you should be armed with the knowledge to do so.
As a sportswriter, my staff and I try to view as many football games as possible so we can compile as much information on these athletes as possible. Inevitably there will be plenty of teams I haven't seen going into next week, but I will feel satisfied with the number I did see.
I'm not asking committee members in Houghton or Menominee to drive to Rapid River to see the Rockets play. I am asking that sometime during the nine-week football season, members find the time to watch one 8-Man game somewhere in the Upper Peninsula, if not on a Friday night, then on a Saturday afternoon.
There are too many misconceptions of the game out there. Misconceptions that may keep a very good player off the All-U.P. team. It is my hope that if a player does not make the team, that it is because voters collectively know that another player at the position is better and not because of some preconceived bias that may exist.
Watch an 8-Man game. Yes, there is more space, yes some players may post bigger numbers than they would on an 11-Man team. Take that into consideration, sure. But look closer. It's still football. There's still blocking, there's still tackling. A good defense can still hold an opposing team in check. A great offense will still score about as much as a great 11-Man offense would, but in fact, the 8-Man players almost certainly work harder. They have to, there's fewer of them. You have shorter benches, tougher practices, bigger roles.
All in all, I find the 8-Man game very entertaining, as I do the 11-Man game. It's all football.