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