Game Changer: Atlanta Makes the Switch to 8-man
The first in a three-part series examining the growing number of northern Michigan schools sponsoring 8-man football. Today, we look at Atlanta and its recent decision to transition from the 11-man game to 8-man for the 2017 season.
ATLANTA – When Atlanta takes to the gridiron in 2017, the Huskies will have a slightly different look.
Receiving approval by its school board in late October, Atlanta is joining a growing number of northern Michigan high schools fielding an 8-man football program.
With an enrollment of just 75 students for the 2016-17 school year, Atlanta was the smallest school in the state to sponsor an 11-man team this season, opening the year with a 17-player roster.
“Going to 8-man football doesn’t guarantee us wins,” Atlanta athletic director Jack Gebauer said. “Making this move allows us to be competitive again. You cannot field a competitive 11-man team by traveling 13 players.”
Although new to the athletic director position at Atlanta, Gebauer is no stranger to 8-man football, having spent the previous eight years as Posen’s athletic director. Posen was one of the state’s early adapters to the modified game, making the switch in 2009 and joining the Bridge Alliance Football League in 2010.
Atlanta has struggled in recent years to field a competitive team, going a combined 0-17 over the last two seasons and last posting a winning record in 2002 (5-4). During its peak years of enrollment from 1984-1995, Atlanta recorded 10 winning seasons and made seven trips to the postseason.
The Huskies are the second North Star League program to make the move to 8-man since 2015, with Hale competing in the Mid-Michigan 8-Man Football League the previous two years.
The switch to the 8-man game also means Atlanta will make the move to a new league, as the Huskies join the ranks of the Midwest Central Michigan 8-Player Football Conference. A seven-team league for its inaugural season in 2016, the Midwest Central Michigan 8-Player Football Conference moves to 10 programs in 2017, with Baldwin and Hale also joining.
League members include Forest Area, Grand Traverse Academy, Manistee Catholic Central, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian, Marion, Brethren and Big Rapids Crossroads.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to be in this conference,” Gebauer said. “This conference is designed for smaller schools and allows schools to be competitive again. When you have a 110-pound wide receiver going up against a 280-pound lineman, that’s dangerous and not competitive. This is allowing the kids to go out on that field and enjoy themselves again.”
Gebauer says Atlanta has already filled its 2017 schedule.