8-man football on the rise in southwest Missouri

The Jasper Eagles are making the switch to 8-man this season.

8-Man football is growing in Missouri, and slowly making its way to the southwest corner of the state. 

“In Kansas it’s a big deal and everybody loves it,” says Matt McKee, Liberal High School head coach, “It’s not as popular in southwest Missouri.”

McAuley Catholic in Joplin suspended its football program in 2016.

The Warriors were the last local 8-man program, until Liberal jumped in the 8-man game last season.

The Bulldogs were one of 27 8-man programs in the state.

“The kids seem to like it,” McKee adds, “Our community and fans seem to embrace it really well. We never really got any push-back when we switched to 8-man. So it’s been a good experience for us. There were like 26 or 28 schools that were 8-man football in Missouri, and I think this year there’s around 40.” 

The Jasper Eagles are one of those new teams moving from 11-man to 8-man this fall.

“8-man may be a way for us to find some success on the football field and create more opportunities for guys individually to be successful,” says Joey Ballard, first-year head coach at Jasper High School. 

With a majority of the 8-man programs concentrated to the northwest portion of the state, these two teams are excited to give fans a different look at football in 2020 and in the future. 

“I think it’s definitely more exciting for the fans and the kids seem to like it because you score more touchdowns, and kids are going to love that part of it,” McKee finishes, “Once you’re around it and you see it and you watch it, I think more people will enjoy it. I think it’s going to continue to grow. Numbers are declining all over the state in sports in general, but especially football. I think those smaller schools are able to do it with declining numbers. I think it’s going to keep growing, honestly.”