By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
Ka’u High School is moving ahead with plans to field an eight-man football team this season and will play four informal games.
Athletic director Kalei Namohala shared the school’s plans during the Big Island Interscholastic Federation ADs meeting on Tuesday and said she hoped the move will eventually lead to an eight-man football league on the Big Island.
“We see this as a pilot program and are willing to pay for the insurance as well as cover the costs with the informal games this year,” Namohala said. “We want to see how the kids feel about it, and I think this is the direction we want to go in.
“Each year we have a solid 20 kids come out for football, but it’s hard to have an 11-man football team when you have a small enrollment at the school. We’re not the only BIIF school facing that situation.”
But Namohala noted that the Maui Interscholastic League already has an eight-man football league, with Molokai, Hana, Seabury Hall and St. Anthony participating. Ka’u and Molokai have already scheduled a game for this season, Oct. 5 on Molokai.
The Trojans will play at least two BIIF junior varsity teams this season. The dates and sites are still being finalized, Namohala said.
“Since we’re doing this informally, the BIIF ADs don’t have to give their approval,” Namohala said. “But I feel like there is support for the idea and hopefully there will be other small schools who may decide to go this route. It will be their decision to make on their own.”
Namohala said several states — 23, in fact — already play eight-man football. It’s also played in some foreign countries and is popular at the high school and even professional levels.
“There are only a few changes from 11-man football, so it’s fairly easy to adapt,” she said.
Eight-man football is played on a field 100 yards by 40 yards, while the 11-man game is played on a roughly 100-by-53 field. The sport also has a faster tempo, due to the smaller size of the field and fewer players, and the games are usually higher scoring.
To get from 11 to eight players on offense, the two tackles and a wide receiver are dropped. On defense, it’s usually two defensive backs and a D-lineman.
The games have four 12-minute quarters, and there are only slight adjustment in the rules.
“I’ve talked to some BIIF officials and they support the idea,” Namohala said. “They said they’ve never called eight-man football before, but they can learn and are willing to do it.”
Namohala would like to see the BIIF eventually have at least a three-school eight-man league, playing each other twice in a six-game schedule. Those teams could also schedule the Maui teams to increase their schedules.
The Ka’u AD also believes if the BIIF could join Maui and possibly interested Interscholastic League of Honolulu teams in offering eight-man football, a state championship might be up for grabs in the future.
Namohala is already fundraising for this season’s trip to Molokai.
Any individuals or businesses that would like to help can call Namohala at 982-2012.