On the recommendation of head coach Jordan Hopman, the Decatur LSA administration and school board have approved 8-man football for the Lions instead of 11.
Even co-oping with Mount Pulaski, LSA still did not have the numbers to compete on a weekly basis in the Lincoln Prairie Conference. And everyone knows high school football is a numbers game.
“We considered many points,” said Hopman in explaining his decision and the school’s approval to drop 11-man football for 8-man.
“First off, this was not an easy decision. LSA wants to play 11-man football. We truly hope that we are blessed in the coming years with the numbers to once again field a traditional football team. However, this is something I have personally been thinking about since we were averaging 14 players during our summer practices.
“Two, we compared our enrollment to that of our conference (Lincoln Prairie) opponents and of the schools already in the I8FA. We also looked at roster size and our school location.
“Three, we are a small community within a large city. This is a very unique situation, not to mention our co-op (Mount Pulaski). There are a few other Christian schools here in the state that we have seen be successful that have stories very similar to us.
“Four, I have talked to several very helpful ADs (athletic directors) from Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Nebraska and have yet to hear from one that 8-man has been negative for their program.
“Five, We are losing eight seniors to graduation and will only get younger moving forward.
“Six, We believe that it will allow us to be more competitive with the current makeup of our team. We absolutely are not saying that it will allow us to win more. This is not an easy league. This is real football. There are outstanding teams, players and coaches in the I8FA that I have been watching and scouting over the past three or four months.
“Seven, we hope and believe it will allow us to play a junior varsity schedule, which will allow us an opportunity to foster a safe learning environment for our new players. “Eight, It will absolutely allow us to hold players more accountable,” said Hopman.
At the present time, there are 16 schools playing 8-man football. They are coop Milford, Polo, River Ridge Hanover, coop Pawnee, coop Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland, Danville Schlarman, coop Rockford Christian Life, Lake Forest Academy, Edwardsville Metro-East Lutheran, coop Washburn-Low Point, Champaign Judah Christian, coop Cuba North Fulton, Elgin Westminster Christian, Jacksonville Illinois School for the Deaf, Hebron-Alden and Bunker Hill.
Here are others that are considering dropping 11-man for 8-man–Litchfield, Pittsfield, Ashton Franklin Center, South Beloit, Varna Midland, Martinsville, Blue Ridge, Madison and Salt Fork.
LSA’s decision is going to have an immediate affect on the Lincoln Prairie Conference since it leaves the league down a team.
I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.