Numbers force Clinton to compete in eight-man football this fall
CLINTON — The Clinton varsity football team will compete in the eight-man league this fall, a move from Class C to help with low participation numbers in a few age groups.
Head coach Jason Alexander, who has been at the helm of the program for the past two seasons, guided the team to a 2-6 record last season. The team had 17 non-seniors on the roster.
About the move to eight-man, Alexander said: “It was a numbers thing. We’re looking at a small senior class this year with only a couple football players in it. Our participation numbers indicate that we’d have less players than we need to compete in 11-man football.”
The district considered multiple options but “wanting to keep our identity and not combine with anybody and still play for sectionals it was a great opportunity right now.” He added, “We looked at every option for what was best for us, for our program.” That included a possible partnership with another school district. For example, Westmoreland and Oriskany combine for several sports including football.
Alexander said he met with the athletic director and reflected on how the move to eight-man has led to some schools rebuilding and recovering.
For the upcoming season, the goal will be to adjust to the nuances of eight-man football, the coach said. “The kids are excited about it. We expect to be competitive. And we know there are good local programs that have had success at this level. We hope to be right there with them and competing.” He added, “We’re pretty diverse on both sides of the football. I think being balanced will help.”
The move might not last too long. “The younger group we have (has) a lot of kids,” Alexander noted. And while Clinton does not have Pop Warner youth football, players in those age groups do play in other nearby leagues. And those participation numbers seem fine, he said. Low turnout for a few grades “might be an anomaly,” he said.
How soon could Clinton return to conventional 11-man football? Alexander said there’s a “let’s see how this goes” mentality, and the district will “take it year by year at this point. Could it be a longer-term option? Absolutely. Where we are with numbers there’s a good possibility it could be a short-term situation too.”
Clinton’s schedule for the upcoming season is:
Sept. 9, noon, at Bishop Grimes
Sept. 15, noon, home against Sauquoit Valley
Sept. 23, noon, home against West Canada Valley
Sept. 30, 7 p.m., at Frankfort-Schuyler
Oct. 6, noon, home against Cooperstown
Oct. 14, noon, at New York Mills
Oct. 21, 7 p.m., at Waterville
Oct. 27, playoffs or a cross-over game
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