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Eight-man football is a type of American football, generally played by small high schools. Rules and formations vary greatly among states and even among different organizations, but the one constant is eight players from each team on the field at one time, as opposed to eleven-man football, which is played at larger high schools, the college level and in the NFL. As of 2008 schools in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington had eight man football.

Eight-Man Football teams playing in Eastern Oregon.

Differences from eleven-man

Several differences distinguish eight-man football from eleven-man, most notably the elimination of three players. It depends greatly on the type of formation used, but the eliminated players are commonly two offensive tackles and a wide receiver on offense and two defensive backs and a defensive lineman on defense.

The size of the playing field is often smaller in eight-man football than in eleven-man. Some states opt for a smaller, 80 yards long by 40 yards wide field (which is also used in six-man); other states, such as Oklahomamarker, Coloradomarker, and Idahomarker, keep the field of play at 100 yards long while reducing the width to 40 yards. Finally, some schools, such as those in north Idahomarker, Washingtonmarker, and Oregonmarker, play on a full-sized playing field.

Professional eight-man leagues are numerous in the United States and usually follow indoor football rules of a 50 yard by roughly 25 yard field, as professional 8-man football is usually played indoors. In Texas the American Eightman Football League (AEFL)plays on a 100 yard field.

In terms of gameplay, eight-man football is quite different from its eleven-man counterpart. Due to a smaller field and fewer players, the tempo of the game is noticeably faster-paced. Scores tend to be higher, even in high school games where quarters are only 12 minutes long (rather than 15). Especially in high school, a higher percentage of plays are trick plays - direct snaps, Wildcat formation plays, and fake punts and field goals are commonplace.

Game play


Variety of offensive play in eight-man football is significantly reduced due to the decrease in options resulting from fewer players. Formations usually require three players in the backfield (a quarterback and two running backs) and five on the line of scrimmage. The interior of the line consists of two guards and a center. Most often, the line players on the edges of the formation are tight ends, or are occasionally split wide as wide receivers.

Formations vary widely between schools and states, but commonly include the I formation and the T formation (sometimes referred to as "pro set"). Common plays include the counter, dive, option and sweep. Passing is usually not as common in eight-man as it is in the eleven-man game. In certain formations, the center or guards can be eligible to catch passes.

Due to the competitive imbalances that commonly occur between small schools, eight-man games sometimes end early due to the 45-point or "mercy" rule. Depending on the rules in force, when one team gains a 45-point advantage over the other, the game is either governed by a running clock for the remainder of the game or the game ends immediately. A team that has won in this fashion is said to have "45ed" the other team.

Attempting the extra point kick after a touchdown is rare in eight-man, due to the lack of specialized kickers and holders and the inability to block defenders from interfering with the kick. For this reason, teams often attempt a two-point conversion instead.

In states that use an 80-yard field, infractions that normally result in a 15-yard penalty are reduced to 10 yards in eight-man ball. But usually the penalty yardage is still the same as in eleven man football. And likewise, on touchbacks, the ball is spotted on the 15-yard line instead of the 20.


General defensive alignments in eight-man football consist of defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. The most common formation is a 3-3-2, in which three defensive linemen (usually a nose tackle and two defensive ends) line up in a "down" position, with three linebackers standing behind, either stacked over the down linemen, lined up on the inside shoulder of the linemen, or on the outside shoulder of the linemen. Two defensive backs then have coverage responsibilities, either with deep halves or man-to-man with the offense's receivers.

Alternate formations include 4-3-1 (linemen-linebacker-safety), 3-4-1, 4-2-2, 3-2-3 and 5-3 among others.

Popularity in Israel

An Eight man league was established in Israelmarker in 2005 with three teams, Haifamarker Underdogs, Tel Avivmarker Pioneers and Tel Aviv Sabres. The league was established under the leadership of Ofri Becker, who later donated the league championship trophy. Though playing without equipment, this was the first ever tackle football league in this country, named Israeli Football League (IFL).In March 2008, at the end of the first season played in full gear, the Big Blue Jerusalem Lions defeated the Real Housing Haifa Underdogs 24 - 18 in overtime in Israel bowl I.In Israel Bowl II in April 2009, the Dancing Camel Modi'in Pioneers defeated the defending champions Big Blue Jerusalem Lions 32 - 26 after two overtimes. The game was decided by a whole field interception return for a TD by Pioneers' Ohad Naveh. That season was played with five teams after the expansion franchise of Jerusalem Kings was added. The 2009-2010 season will be played with seven teams, introducing two new franchises, the Beer Sheva Black Swarm and the Judean Rebels.

Popularity in Ireland

An Eight man league is also played in Ireland. This league, named DV8, is used as developmental league for rookies before they go on to compete in the 11man IAFL. In 2009, six teams will compete in the DV8 league - Dublin Dragons, Edenderry Soldiers, Trinity College Dublinmarker, Craigavon Cowboys, UCD Sentinels and Erris Rams

Competition with larger schools

Occasionally, schools in a small division with larger enrollments are forced to play eight-man, despite having a player turnout sufficient for eleven-man. This is done when the school in question has no other schools of similar size nearby.

In addition, teams have been known to play combination eight- and eleven-man games, in which both teams compromise by fielding eight players per team when School A is on offense and School B is on defense and 11 players when School A is on defense and School B is on offense.

See also


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