The Differences Between 8 Man And 11 Man Football

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The differences between 8 man and 11 man football fall into two basic categories. They are:

1. Differences:

A. Personnel – With only eight players, someone has to go. In the eight man game, that is the two tackles and either the back or flanker on offense. The rules require that there be five players on the LOS. On defense, one sees two defensive linemen missing (typically the tackles) and a linebacker. As a result, defense can be a problem given that you are basically always one man short. This is especially true if you are playing on a normal 11 man field. A lead that would be easily kept in a 11 man game might be over come in a very shot span if you team posses speed and good coaching. That is why, some call the eight man game “track with pads”.

B. Uniform Numbering – Because your eight man squad usually consists of small numbers and your star player might be a center one play, then a wide receiver on a wide play, then the normal uniform numbering restrictions do not apply. Your running-back/wide receiver might be a “99” and it’s all legal.

C. Mercy Rule – Due to the fact that leads in the eight man game can sometimes be overcome in a very short period of time there exists a mercy rule. This rule will end the game whenever one team gets ahead by a certain number of points. that usually is 40-45 points. However, in some states (Oregon, for example) that lead may just mean a running clock, and not end the game per se.

2. Field Differences – In the eight man game, a spectator might see three possible options depending on his state rules. These are: 1) A field 80 yards long by 40 yards wide is probably the most common and used in many states. 2) some states (Colorado, Oklahoma) opt for a 100 yard long field but reduce the width to 40 yards versus the normal 53 1/3 yard dimension. 3) A handful of states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho) use the same dimensions as a normal 11 man field. This option is most often used in rural areas that go back and forth every few years playing eight man or eleven man given their enrollment growth or decline.

Given all the above, it is clear to anyone that watches an eight man football game, that it is indeed real football. While purists might mutter, it still consists of block, tackling, and hitting. However, unlike the eleven man game, the coach cannot hide a player. Every man and his playing ability or lack thereof, will be plain to see. Because of that, and the limited numbers of most eight man squads, it is a true coaching challenge.

Football Terms

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As a football coach, you are always learning new things. It is a never ending cycle. That is because you are, essentially, a teacher, and if you are going to be a good coach you had best master that skill. But it took me a few years to come to the realization that many coaches do not have a common vocab regarding certain football terms. For instance, what is a log block. I can ask a room of ten coaches and get 5-6 different replies. While we can eventually hash it out and agree, it amazes me how much time is spent having to clarify what is being said in footbalese. So, to clarify what you might find on a given post or in various materials, i have a link to the following Football Dictionary for coaches, fans, and players, courtesy of Jack Reed.

8 Man Football State Associations

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Listed Below are the state associations for the 8 man game that I am currently aware. Many of these associations sponsor 8 man clinics for their coaches. Given the explosion of the game’s popularity there may be others added in the near future.

8 Man Football Camps

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Just as in 11 man, every 8 man coach should try to take his team to a summer football camp if possible. The team-building aspect and bonding that occurs is just as important as the look you get of your formations, strategies, and athletic ability of your players. You are also guaranteed to pick up some ideas from other coaches while there. However, I have found over the years that, if you want to get the best out of your kids, (and avoid the funny looks), you should not attend the 11 man camps. With that in mind, here are some of the 8 man football camps across the country. Hopefully, there is one in your area.

Recommended 8 Man Books

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One of the reasons that this site was begun was due to the fact that there are so few books and materials available to the 8 man coach. Listed below are materials that I found over the course of my coaching journey. If you are aware of others, please contact me and I will see that they are listed here.


Want a football question answered?

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If you have a particular 8 man football question and would like a reply, you can email Coach Derrick at:

derrickp at easton dot wednet dot edu

I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. Depending on the question, it could also be featured on this website. If so, only your initials will be used.


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Coach Derrick has been the Head Coach/Teacher for both 11 man and 8 man teams at the youth, junior high, and high school level. His overall record is 121-60 over 18 seasons. He retired as an active coach in 2012, although he continues to teach at the high school level. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Idaho, which, in football terms, means absolutely nothing.