Passionate football community switches to 8 man squad

CRYSTAL FALLS — In case you missed our top story at 11 last night right here on ABC 10, the Forest Park football program is switching from 11 man to 8 man football, beginning next year.

The school board made the decision, but not before people in the community gave their opinions on what to do with the football program. Here’s a look back at last night’s emotional meeting in Crystal Falls.

“Forest Park Football is like Alabama college football. We’re expected to win, we’re expected to gear up, and we’re expected to play hard. Getting rid of 11-man football would not be the answer or the solution for this school.”

“If these kids want to play and can field an 11-man football, (expletive), you should give them 11-man football because they deserve it. That’s all I have to say.”

“You had said that we would have to play bigger teams in order to be able to keep the 11-man. How many of you boys would be willing to play a bigger team?”

It was a standing room only crowd at Forest Park High School… Parents, players, and community members wanted the Trojans to keep playing 11-man football. The varsity program has made 18-straight postseason appearances, and they’re on schedule to do it again this season. Forest Park won a state title eight years ago. Players and parents pleaded to the school board to not make the change.

“Look it, everyone of them is standing up. They’re willing to play bigger teams. Would you guys be willing to coach these boys to play bigger teams?”

“I understand athletes. I understand wanting to maintain… the guys that spoke did a very nice job; I hear you and I understand that you want to carry on tradition. We all do. We’re not axing football, we’re axing 11-man football and looking to the future right now,” said Forest Park Athletic Director Dwaine Anderson.

The school board ultimately made the decision, but it was not an easy one. One school board member left the meeting, visibly upset and shaken.

In the end, the Trojans are headed to 8-man football come the 2016 season.

“We as a coaching staff, as a committee, met to determine of what we thought was best for the program and we felt over the long term the best would be an 8-man program,” said head coach Dave Graff. “The passion for all of the players is for 11-man. The passion for 11-man football is for 11, still 11.”

Forest Park joins schools like Baraga, Ontonagon and North Central that have recently made the switch. A new tradition of football will be coming to Crystal Falls when next August rolls around.

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