Suttons Bay Moving to 8-Man Football in 2017

SUTTONS BAY – After canceling its varsity football season following its second game this year due to low participation numbers and mounting injuries, Suttons Bay has become the fourth Northern Michigan Football League school to make the switch to 8-man football in 2017.

With some student-athletes opting not to return to the gridiron in 2016 and electing to participate in other school activities, Suttons Bay began the 2016 season with just 16 players on its varsity team. Following its Week 2 loss to Elk Rapids, the Norsemen were left with just 11 healthy players.

“After going through this season, we had been weighing our options this fall,” Suttons Bay athletic director Doug Periard said. “Looking at the numbers for not only next year but for years to come and at the middle school level, we determined that it was not a sustainable situation. Looking at it in the long run, it was not sustainable to field only a JV program again next year and ask other schools to play their freshmen against our juniors, or ask our players to sit on the bench.” 

Suttons Bay joins Onekama, Central Lake and Mesick as NMFL teams making the move.

“We wanted to make sure that we would be playing on Friday nights,” Periard said. “Going two years without a varsity program could be devastating. This is bringing back excitement to smaller schools.”

A co-op program with neighboring Lake Leelanau St. Mary and Northport, Suttons Bay currently does not meet the MHSAA’s postseason eligibility requirement, as it exceeds the enrollment limit. Onekama (Bear Lake) and Mesick (Buckley) are two other area co-op programs that find themselves in similar situations. Currently, the MHSAA only allows Class D programs to participate in its 16-team postseason.

“We would like to see the MHSAA base the playoffs not on school enrollment but on participation numbers,” Periard said. “There are larger schools out there that have low participation numbers for football.”

In addition to the process of building a future schedule and finding a conference to call home, a coaching search is currently underway, as second-year coach Alex Kohler resigned at the conclusion of the 2016 season.

Periard says one of the next moves for Suttons Bay will be implementing the 8-man game at the middle school level.

Categories: Football