When the COVID19 pandemic brought the school year to an end, Subiaco Academy faced hurdles that the average school does not. As a boarding school with international students, it was a process that still has two Chinese students living locally. However, they worked like all in education, transitioning students to online learning and planning for the return to on-campus learning. Just like the others in the area, they did not get to finish their athletic season or have formal graduation. They fully intend to return to in-person learning experience this fall, although some things will be different.
It won’t just be possible classroom directives that represent the change on campus for the Trojans. Starting this fall, Subiaco Academy will make the transition to 8-man football. The change should be a positive strep for the Trojans who have been the victim of the regulations put in place because of the urban private schools. Though they have only 140 students in grades 7-12, the Trojans have been playing in the 4A conference and facing the likes of Ozark, Elkins, Dardanelle, and Waldron and will now take their squad of 20 or so against a more level playing field. The leadership talked to numerous teams out of state where the 8-man game is more common and felt the move would be a significant step and help build the program.
This season, there will be 16 teams competing in the 8-man game, two conferences, East and West. To get in, Subiaco Academy has to be voted in by the existing members, and it was a unanimous 15-0 vote to bring in the Trojans. Head coach Mike Berry, who also wears the Assistant Headmaster and Athletic Director hats at the Academy, said he is looking forward to the transition.
About half of the expected fall football roster is local, meaning the Trojans will have to wait till students arrive on campus for much of the implementation. Currently, Subiaco is loading information to a Google classroom so the athletes can see and learn the new scheme. If 7-on-7 is allowed this summer, as most schools compete, Subiaco will likely not have the numbers to compete. They will wait for the fall and the new system.
The 8-man game will look different. For one, the conference is spread out. This year, Subiaco will have primarily home games, with one local road game at Western Yell. Other games will go to the northern border to Decatur and southern to Texarkana. The Trojans will have one non-conference game and seven conference games with the four larger schools having a playoff. Other schools near the size of Subiaco are Episcopal in Little Rock, Marshall and Rosebud.
The on-field game should be entertaining. There can be only five players at the line of scrimmage and usually, the best athlete is at the quarterback position. Berry says most defenses run man to man because there is so much more ground to cover with the smaller squad. On offense, expect a lot of spread offense, jet sweep action, and wildcat formations. The kicking game is also different, not by rule, but a necessity. Returns have a much better advantage with fewer defenders, so most kickoffs are onside kicks, few punts, and two-point conversions outnumber field goals. Games are generally higher scoring than the 11 man game as offenses tend to dominate.
“This should bring some new energy to the program,” Berry said. “Hopefully, we can have some success, generate more interest and see improved enrollment and return to the eleven-man game.”
Subiaco will also be adding other precautions, including the possibility of expanding the current on-campus clinic with Dr. Richey and promoting the fact of their location in regards to cases of COVID19. The Academy will adjust as needed, but hopefully, come August, we will see a new, high energy game on Friday nights behind the Abbey.