8 is More than Enough
December 16, 2011
Carsonville-Port Sanilac has been all in since the beginning of 8-player football as an MHSAA sport three seasons ago.
Rapid River made the switch just this season.
But heading into tonight's first-ever MHSAA Final for the sport, both programs can claim similar rewards from embracing this adjusted version of the state's most popular high school sport.
Despite small enrollments, they can still play the game. And although they've struggled at times in recent years, both teams are winning -- and reaping all of the community support and good vibes that come with success.
Both 11-1, Carsonville-Port Sanilac and Rapid River kick off for the championship at 7 p.m. at Northern Michigan's Superior Dome.
"We can't be happier to have the opportunity to play (8-player) this year. The added success has really brought our team together, and I hope it ends on a good note," Rapid River coach Steve Ostrenga said. "It's great for the kids and great for the community. You always talk about hard work. But when we were 1-8 ... the kids who have been through those tough times, I think they appreciate it more."
Both teams can value that statement.
Rapid River won one game each of the last two seasons and hadn't reached the playoffs since 2002. The school has roughly 120 students now -- 40-50 fewer than when it was having its last run of success near the end of the 1990s.
Carsonville-Port Sanilac went 0-9 before leading the charge into 8-player football in 2009. Although the Tigers had made the playoffs as recently as 2005, winning seasons for the team had been few and far between. But Carsonville-Port Sanilac went undefeated a year ago and beat Bellaire in an unofficial state "championship" game that matched the Tigers -- winners of the Mid-Michigan 8-man Football League -- against the winners of the Bridge-Alliance 8-man Conference.
"It's changed the whole culture of the school," said C-PS coach Tim Brabant, who is in his second season running the program and graduated from the school in 2006. "At first, a lot of people didn't buy into it. But as we went undefeated last year, and with what we've done this year, we've gotten complete community support and a buy-in across the board."
Recently, that's included 240 people showing up at last week's pancake breakfast to raise money for this weekend's trip to Marquette. Tigers supports also filled two fan buses headed to NMU.
Both coaches also listed a similar adjustment teams that play 8-player football must make: Strong open-field tackling is a must.
Although the field is only 40 yards wide -- instead of the usual 53 -- having six fewer players on the field opens up the offense significantly. Rapid River has scored more than 60 points four times and Carsonville-Port Sanilac put up 70 and 91 in games this fall. Both average 51 points per contest. Ostrenga grew up in Menominee -- known for its single wing offense that doesn't use a quarterback -- but has embraced a spread passing attack that allows for opportunities all over the field.
Both teams suffered their only losses when their quarterbacks were injured briefly in September. Depth always is an issue when numbers are low.
That said, success in this version of the game has planted some roots for the future. C-PS had 50 players out for elementary teams this fall and hopes to have enough down the road for a full junior varsity. Rapid River thinks the move to 8-player will help it sustain the program despite enrollment losses of the last few years.
And the historical context of tonight's game is not lost on either team.
"They understand that. We were the first team in the state of Michigan to have a full 8-man roster," Brabant said. "A lot of people thought we were crazy. These kids understand what's at stake."
(Photo courtesy of Carsonville-Port Sanilac football program)
MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 27, 2023
The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.
The one-day camps will take place between May 16-19 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.
Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.
“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”
Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.
All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.
MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.
“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”
The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.