Injuries force school to play first Ohio 8-man football game in decades

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Some states have different levels of football that incorporate smaller rosters, like 8-man and 6-man in Texas. The modified form of the gridiron pastime allows schools and towns with relatively tiny populations to still connect with an intrinsic part of school spirit and small town Americana.

The St. Wendelin football team, which had to convert from an 11-man to 8-man squad because of injuries — St. Wendelin School
The St. Wendelin football team, which had to convert from an 11-man to 8-man squad because of injuries — St. Wendelin School

Yet that's not the case in Ohio, where teams are expected to either field a full, 11-man lineup or not play at all. The last time an 8-man football game was played in the Buckeye State, the sport was competed between one of just five schools in that classification, who formed the state's 8-man football group between 1947 and 1961. That all changed on Saturday, when an Ohio team that usually plays 11-man football applied for and received a special exemption to compete in an 8-man game, for a rather simple reason: It had too many injuries to field an 11-man team.

As reported by the Associated Press' Rusty Miller, Fostoria (Ohio) St. Wendelin School traveled across state lines to face off against Battle Creek (Mich.) Apocalypse High, but didn't have the full complement of healthy players to field an 11-man team. As a result, the program had to ask the Ohio High School Athletic Association for special dispensation to compete in an 8-man game, after first getting the go-ahead from BCA authorities.

St. Wendelin got approval on all fronts, and eventually competed -- and won -- an 8-man game, marking the first 8-man victory in Ohio in decades.

"In playing this year against some of the other teams, the comment had been made: 'Hey, coach, if you get a couple of injuries and you want to whittle this thing down to an eight-man game, we can work something out,'" St. Wendelin coach Jim Bodart told the AP. "We were always able to keep 11 guys on the field, but after we had a few more injuries, it was like, 'Well, if we're going to finish this season, there's no other option.'"

The 38-14 victory St. Wendelin earned in Michigan was the program's first of the season, a reprieve from a long, hard year in which a 14-player squad has been whittled down to 11, and then below that, due to injuries. St. Wendelin fielded teams of at least 16 players in all recent seasons heading into the 2012 campaign, but a low turnout left the Mohawks with almost as many cheerleaders as football players.

Now, the hardy souls who made it through the season with the program will get to go out with a win, albeit one that will require an asterisk in state record books.

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