Lone Tree, Iowa Valley the latest schools to go the 8-player football route

Prep football season begins Thursday

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CEDAR RAPIDS — There are little things about moving from 11-player to 8-player football that you wouldn’t realize.

It’s still running, passing, blocking and tackling. That’s never going to change.

Physically making a field narrower and shorter is easy. Just move the yard markers and out-of-bounds lines.

But the goal posts? That’s another story.

Those suckers are heavy.

“Have you been talking to someone else about that?” Lone Tree Coach Chad Shield asked. “We actually got brand-new ones last year. We dug the holes, poured the concrete, then realized we were off a couple of feet. So we dug more holes.”

After the 2015 season concluded, it was determined the school (always among the smallest in 11-player) would make the switch to 8-player football. Move those goal posts again.

“I’ve got plenty of practice at it,” Shield said with a laugh. “We kept the holes, so if we ever decide to go back to 11-man, it’ll be easy to move them back.”

Lone Tree and Iowa Valley are the latest Gazette-area schools to go 8-player. You must have an enrollment under 100 to do it.

WACO (another new 8-player school) plays at HLV on Thursday night in the first official high school football game of the season. Lone Tree hosts Central City and Iowa Valley hosts Clarksville as part of a five-game schedule Friday night.

The rest of the state, including all 11-player teams, get underway next week.

“Honestly, it hasn’t been too bad of a transition,” said Iowa Valley Coach Cody Snitker. “You are tackling the same, blocking the same. We’re doing a lot of the things we’d be working on anyway.”

“It’s still football, you know?” said Iowa Valley’s Bennett Goetsch. “We kind of knew after our last game last year that we were going 8-man. We prepared for it. Our biggest strength, I think, is running the ball. We’re probably not going to pass very much. We think we’ve got a pretty good line.”

Goetsch rushed for 1,170 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, so you’d expect him to have a lot of success this season with three less defenders to worry about. Iowa Valley went 2-7 in 2015 but feels it can compete for a district championship in its new game.

“The first thing I did was contact 8-man coaches around the area and state, emailed them and stuff for help,” Snitker said. “Chad Winters at Lansing Kee is a Waukon guy like me, and he sent me eight films on Hudl. Central City Coach Matt Miers also was very helpful ... We knew in late October last year that we’d be eligible to drop down. We’re looking out for the kids, looking out for them. This way we can be a little more competitive, I think. We have an enrollment under 100, and we’re not going to be playing schools with an enrollment of 150 anymore.”

Snitker said the IV community is all-in with the switch and very excited. It’s a bit more of a mixed reaction at Lone Tree, as you’d expect considering the school’s 11-player history.

The Lions won a state championship in 1982 and qualified for the Class A playoffs seven of the previous eight seasons. They were 6-4 last season, losing to Lisbon in the first round of the postseason.

“I think we all had opinions about it,” said Lone Tree’s Jovonte Squiers. “But we realized it was going to happen. In the end, football is football.”

Shield said the school’s reason to move to 8-player came because of very low participant numbers in middle school. Depth will be a strength of this year’s team considering it has eight returning starters.

That includes a handful of guys, Squiers one of them, who can run the football out of its traditional option attack.

“We reached out to some coaches in other states,” said Shield, a West Liberty native with no 8-player experience. “We didn’t know how willing coaches around here would be to help. We didn’t know how our triple-option would work or translate. We got in contact with the coach at Stanberry, Mo., who won a state championship last year, and that helped out a lot. We also talked to some coaches in Nebraska.

“There were a lot of questions, we had a lot of questions coming from our guys. But kids are resilient. They’re very excited. They’ve bought into it.”

Now if only they don’t have to move those goal posts again ...

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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