WIAA State 8-Player Football Championship Preview

State 8-Player Football Championship Preview

THE CHAMPIONSHIP: The fourth annual Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association 8-Player Football State Championship Final will be held Saturday, Nov. 12, at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School at 1 p.m.

ADMISSIONTICKETS: The WIAA uses GoFan Ticketing for all digital and cashless tickets. Admission is $11 plus online fees for adults and students. All tickets must be redeemed on a mobile device. To purchase tickets, visit the WIAA website at:  https://gofan.co/app/school/WIAAWI.

LIVE STREAMED ON WIAA.TV:  The 8-player football championship game will be streamed live on the WIAA.TV portal of the NFHS Network on a consumer subscription basis. To purchase a subscription to the live programming, log-on to www.wiaa.tv and click on the “Subscribe” link at the top of the page. Archived streams of the games will be available on demand on the NFHS Network 72 hours after the tournament with a subscription.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME HISTORY:  Sevastopol defeated Luck 38-30 in the first title game played at Stanley-Boyd in 2018. In the second championship game in 2019 played at Chippewa Falls, Luck defeated Newman Catholic 42-27. The first year featured an eight-team bracket that was expanded to a 16-team bracket in 2019. Newman Catholic defeated Luck last year, 49-6. There was no championship game in 2020 because of COVID-19 guidelines and accommodations when only one level of the playoff was offered.

REDUCED PLAYER FOOTBALL HISTORY:  Reduced-player football has had a long history in the association. The WIAA introduced a reduced-player football option for the first time in 1937 with a 6-player opportunity intended to serve small schools. An  8-player option was introduced a few years later, and prior to 1941, there were 90 schools playing either 6- or 8-player football. World War II had an impact as the number of reduced-player teams declined to 70. In 1950, there were 50 6-player teams and 26 8-player squads. By 1956, the 8-player game had all but replaced the six-player option as 71  programs were playing 8-player to only six schools sponsoring the 6-player option. By 1969, almost every football program was 11-player with the number of teams playing eight-player dwindling to six. In 2012, the WIAA reinstated reduced-player football with 16 teams optioning for the eight-player format that season. For six seasons, the top four teams in two separate regions were afforded an opportunity to match-up and play in a four-game jamboree at the end of the season.

FACTS &FIGURES: There were 59 programs sponsoring 8-player football in 2022 and 41 were tournament eligible. There are several schools participating in the 8-player program that were ineligible for the post-season tournament because their three-year average enrollment exceeds 200, which is the threshold to be eligible for the 8-player tournament.

2021 CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP:   Newman Catholic (12-0) scored 35 points in the second quarter and cruised to a 49-6 victory over Luck (10-2) in the 2021 State 8-Player Football Championship game at South Wood County Stadium in Wisconsin Rapids. In a rematch of the 2019 title game between two teams nicknamed the Cardinals, Newman Catholic avenged its 42-27 loss in dominant fashion, outgaining Luck, which was missing its leading offensive threat with an injury, 371-81 in total offense yardage and possessing a 22-4 margin in first downs for the game. Newman Catholic quarterback Conner Krach led all rushers with 128 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries, and he completed 11-of-15 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns.

THE MATCH-UP:  Defending champion Newman Catholic returns to the title game for the third consecutive season, not including 2020 when a championship game was not conducted because of COVID accommodations. In 2019, the Fighting Cardinals finished runner-up. They have qualified for the 8-player playoffs for the fourth time overall. Prior to sponsoring 8-player football, they made five 11-player playoff appearances and compiled a 2-5 record. Their furthest advance in the 11-player playoffs was to Level 3 in 2010. The Fighting Cardinals are the champions of the Central Conference this fall. They blanked Siren 35-0 in their Level 3 match-up to advance to the championship game. Belmont advances to the championship game for the first time. The Braves have qualified for the playoffs three times. They advanced to Level 3 in 2019 and to Level 2 in 2021 before being eliminated from title contention. Belmont is the champion in the West Division of the Ridge & Valley 8-Player Football Conference this season. The Braves advanced to the title game following a 44-18 win over Wabeno/Laona in their Level 3 game. Belmont qualified 10 times when it sponsored 11-player football. Their most notable experience was a runner-up finish in Division 7 in 2003.

KEY DIFFERENCES IN THE GAME: In addition to only eight players on the field for each side, the game differs slightly from the 11-player format both in the field configurations and playing rules. The eight-player field is 40 feet (13.3 yards) and the distance between the hash marks are narrower than the 11-player field. The playing rules differ from 11-player in that there must be at least five players on the offensive line of scrimmage at the snap. Each player that is at the end of the line of scrimmage and each of the three players behind the line of scrimmage are eligible and may have any legal jersey number.

FOLLOW THE FINAL ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Receive updates of the State Football Finals on the WIAA State tournament Twitter account @wiaawistate with the hashtag #wiaafb. Also like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram at wiaawi.

NEED RESULTS?:  Results and official statistics will be available on the WIAA website following the conclusion of the game.

WILSON IS THE OFFICIAL BALL:  Wilson is the official game ball of the WIAA State 8-Player Football Final. Wilson footballs are also the official ball at the 11-player football finals and at Levels 3 and 4 of the playoffs. The agreement with Wilson is effective through the 2023 season.

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David Keech
Author: David Keech

David Keech is a math teacher in Wisconsin Rapids and public address announcer for Abbotsord High School. He officiates basketball, baseball, and softball in central Wisconsin. He has reported on amateur sports since 2011, known as 'KeechDaVoice.' David can be reached at [email protected]