[image]http://llnw.static.cbslocal.com/Themes/CBS/_resources/img/ico010x010clock.gif[/image]Fri, 31 Oct 2008 18:50:01 GMT [/ul] Wisconsin schools play unique 9-man football game
CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (AP) Those who ventured out to Chippewa Falls' Dorais Field Thursday night were shown a high-scoring brand of 9-man football as Bruce defeated Alma Center Lincoln, 56-30.
The game is believed to be the first 9-man football game in Wisconsin's history. It's also the first modified football game one that is played with less than 11 players on the field per team since the 1960s when 8-man football was being played.
The game was organized by New Auburn in hopes of getting 9-man football sparked in the state for the struggling small school programs.
''I think it's important we took another step forward. There's a lot of discussion about this among small schools,'' New Auburn athletic director and principal Brian Henning said. ''To organize an event like this and to get some schools to commit to playing modified playing is a step in the right direction.
''Now we need to get back to our conferences and talk to them and see who else is ready to make the step forward.''
Thursday's game may have provided that step forward for 9-man football.
The offenses in the game was nothing short of a forest fire.
Bruce's Tyler Zimmerman connected with Kurt Johnson for a touchdown pass in the south end zone of Dorais Field for the first of several touchdowns by each team.
Bruce scored on several more touchdowns, both running and passing. Lincoln's first of a handful of touchdowns came on a pass from Mac Brown to Ian Jahn.
The Red Raiders held the lead in the game throughout, and were up as much as 42-16. The Hornets cut the lead to 42-30, but Bruce scored twice more. Bruce was ahead at the half 26-16.
Both coaching staffs used the previous week to prepare for the 10th game of the season. It took a little bit of searching and a little bit of creativity.
''I went on the Internet trying to f many other small schools in the state are dealing with small numbers and small enrollments.
Those numbers still came into play Thursday night.
''It's a lot faster, and they got tired quick. Especially with us, we've got 16 players suited up. They got tired fast,'' Blazek said. ''It's fun. The highest we scored all season was 18 and we got 30 tonight.''
Commentary on Bruce's sideline was no different Thursday night than in the previous nine-game regular season, Lehman and Dieckman said.
''We don't know if during the heat of the game that the guys realized that there was only nine guys,'' Dieckman said. ''To me, it's nice. It's the comfort zone that they're used to being in.''
While Bruce and Lincoln were competing in the historical matchup, New Auburn coach Keenan Dahl watched from track surrounding Dorais Field's artificial turf.
''Initially, I think I was a little bit skeptical,'' Dahl said. ''But, watching it, it's a pretty fun game. It's wide-open, exciting, a lot of offense, it could be pretty fun.''
Dahl was at the game as part of the New Auburn contingent observing the game. The Trojans were scheduled to possibly play Winter in a second game Thursday, but qualified for the WIAA playoffs instead.
The coach felt that although there were two fewer players, not much would change for his team if it did play 9-man football.
''We can use a lot of the same formations, minus a couple of linemen. It looks fun. It looks really fun.''
Blazek and the Hornets are pretty much in the same boat as New Auburn and the Lakeland Conference. Lincoln, a member of the Dairyland Conference, has typically 30 players out for football each year, making 9-man more appealing.
Bruce, on the other hand, has a fairly strong football program that has a good among of players participating each year. But Lehman understood the plight of some of the other small schools.
''I think it's somewhere to go. If the WIAA had a playoff system, it would be great,'' he said. ''I know for us, we've got kids that could definitely come and play for us. I don't think we're at that point yet.''
Dieckman says perhaps 9-man football is the way to go for small schools that are hopeful of having not just a varsity team, but also a junior varsity team.
''Maybe you could have a JV schedule. That's the positive side of it,'' he said. ''You can play a JV schedule and you can play the kids that are not playing on Friday night.''
And Dieckman would like to see a conference of 9-man football, too.
''If it's going to happen, I hope to see it happen so there's a conference legitimate schools playing for something. Kids like to play for something, whether it be a conference championship,'' he said.
That eventually could lead to a playoff system. Before a system is set up, Henning said the school will approach the Lakeland Conference and attempt to get a conference of schools playing 9-man football in 2009 or perhaps 2010.
More schools or leagues could follow.
''The Lakeland, the Ridge and Valley in southwestern Wisconsin, a few schools from northeastern, and who knows, maybe some schools from southeastern Wisconsin may want to look at this as an option,'' he said.
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