Enterprise High School football is entering another dimension: The eight-man football program. The school transitioned from the standard 11-man squad mainly because of declining interest in the program.
Second-year Coach Rusty Eschler said he has 15 players on the squad so far this year despite an appearance at the state playoffs last year.
“We’ll possibly get more when school starts, but we have what we need for eight-man,” he said. “The difference between eight and 11-man football offense is two lineman and a skill position player while on defense. Two defensive backs and a defensive lineman are missing.
“I like eight-man football,” Eschler said. “I coached eight-man at Joseph, and with our numbers, it was something we had to do.”
He said his players had no problems adjusting to the game.
“Last year, our preseason was eight-man and nine-man football games,” he said.
The Outlaws only played four 11-man games last year.
The squad lost four seniors, but has five seniors this year and one junior. Only two freshmen joined the squad this year. Eschler said that some of the lack of interest is probably due to fear of injury, particularly concussion.
“There’s a faction out there concerned about head trauma, and there’s nothing we can we can do about it,” Eschler said. “All we can do is make it as safe as we can. We’re part of the Heads Up Football program, and we teach techniques to take the head out of the game.”
Eschler said that team strengths include his five seniors, four of whom have played together multiple years.
“Their leadership is our strength,” he said. “Our kids are hard-working and good kids, but we’re not very deep, so our weakness is going to be depth.”
The coach said that he selected senior Coy Aschenbrenner as starting quarterback.
“He’s one of the best kids you’ll run into,” he said about the starter’s work ethic. “The core group of kids we have in the locker room are great.”
He also noted that Trace Evans will start at running back and freshman Gideon Gray will see a lot of playing time.
The Outlaws also inherited a player from Astoria named Sallas Boyer, who at 6-5 and 250 pounds will add some much-needed size to the squad.
Fans can expect to see the team throw the football more than in years past.
“Coy’s got a pretty good arm, and the more we throw in practice, the more we like what we see,” Eschler said.
The team will also throw a good amount of play-option at opponents, and team speed should make the games interesting.
“We coach these guys the best we can,” Eschler said. “We make it fun, and hopefully, we have some success. I think we’ll be all right.”