Countdown to Kickoff: Newman makes change to eight-man football - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Countdown to Kickoff: Newman makes change to eight-man football

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

Newman Catholic football is adjusting to a major on-field change as it prepares for its 2017 season.

The Cardinals, who have dealt with participation issues in their program for a number of years, are making the switch to eight-man football.

Athletic Director and head football coach Paul Michlig said Newman has just 51 boys enrolled in its high school, with 23 of them on the football team.

"Our participation rate is good," he said. "But for the health and safety of our kids we wanted to make sure we went to (eight-man)."
Michlig said he went to clinics and talked to various coaches throughout the summer, schooling himself on the differences between eight-man football and the traditional 11-man game.

He said he's excited for the fast-paced and open brand of football, and thinks it will suit his team's skilled, spread-style offense.

"It's rejuvenated me," he said. "It's awesome. It's a change of pace and we're excited about it.

"In 11-man, you're re-inventing the wheel," he continued. "In eight-man, you're kind of inventing the wheel. (It's been fun to) use our minds and put stuff together."

Michlig described his team as "energetic." Players said they are excited about the switch, and don't see their new style as any lesser than the game they grew up playing.

"We're still out here hitting guys; still throwing the ball and catching the ball," Connor Wulf, a senior wide receiver, said. "It fits the skillset and the kind of offense we run here. If anything, it's going to be an easy transition for us."

Eight-man football is still played on a traditional 100-yard field, but the width is narrowed from 53 1/3 yards to 40 yards. Only five players are allowed on the line of scrimmage, as opposed to seven in the traditional game. Teams typically line up with three offensive linemen, a tight end, two receivers, a quarterback and a running back.

Michlig said the style and open field with three fewer bodies on it should open things up offensively, but will put a strain on the defense.

"Our cornerbacks have to be able to make plays," he said. "Defensive ends, too. They have to be big enough to penetrate but also have to make sure they have the edge (to prevent big plays)."

The Cardinals are not a part of a conference. They will play nine non-conference games against teams from the MONLPC-8 conference, which features schools from northeastern Wisconsin - including Door County and the greater Green Bay area.

Newman has a contract to play 8-man for at least two seasons. Michlig said the goal is to join the MONLPC-8 conference next year, and then hopefully go back to the 11-man game in 2019.

Newman will scrimmage against Phillips on Friday. The Loggers are also switching to eight-man for the 2017 season.

For more high school football previews, visit our Countdown to Kickoff page.

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