A shift from eight-man to six-man football for smaller schools in Oregon this year, including the Dayville/Monument Tigers, is moving teams into high gear for an exhilarating season.
“Everyone gets a fresh start with six-man this season,” said new Dayville/Monument Tiger head coach Kyle Hand. “It’s brand new to everybody.”
Dayville/Monument’s season started Saturday at the Echo Jamboree, and the Tigers will host the Prairie City Panthers at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, in Dayville.
Hand, who was Tiger assistant coach last season for Nathaniel Ashley, is the new head coach. He was also a volunteer assistant coach in 2009 and 2010.
The Tigers were a junior varsity team the past two years, and are back at varsity this season.
Six-man football, which is big in states such as Texas and Montana, is in the pilot stage in Oregon for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Any school with an adjusted enrollment of 89 or less can participate. There will be no playoffs, but if coaches decide to move forward after the two-year trial run, there will be OSAA championships.
Hand said the six-man option is giving his athletes a more competitive edge.
One new rule, he said, is that the offense must hand off or throw the ball — no quarterback keepers — though the quarterback can later take it back.
“Everybody is eligible to receive the ball, so everybody can score,” he said.
He said endurance will be key in the game, as well as containing their opponents and not getting down if the other guy gains yards.
The game is generally played on a 40-by-80-yard field.
Hand said his team is working hard and showing drive.
Last year, the Tigers could not muster a win, but the new format and team’s efforts could translate into a better season.
“I feel really confident,” he said. “I think we’ll be a force to reckon with.”
He said his 13 players are showing an excellent work ethic with size and speed to run the game well.
“We have the best of both worlds,” he said.
Starting quarterback is Donovan Schafer, who will switch off with JT Hand in the position. The coach said each of the players have distinct qualities to help the team.
Sophomore Mark Thomas, a tailback, had a great season on the Monument track team last school year, taking fifth place in the 1,500-meter run at state.
“He’s fast and has one of the best attitudes on the team,” Hand said.
The coach said senior Gabe Walker-Hopkins “will be a big part of offense and defense for us,” and senior Cade Milton as center is part of the “crucial” line.
The two seniors on the roster are joined by one junior, five sophomores and four freshmen. One other freshman may also join the team.
At Thursday’s practice, Walker-Hopkins was looking forward to their first competition and seeing the team move into game speed.
“It’s going to be a lot faster,” he said. “Everyone is trying really hard, and it’s pushing me to try even harder.”
Milton said he didn’t think he’d like six-man at first, but he’s found it to be even better than eight-man.
“I feel like we’re good this year,” he said. “We have a closer bond this year than we ever have, and there’s a lot more kids that actually want to play and are putting 110 percent in.”
Hand’s assistant coaches are Heather Bowlus and Rocky Perkins.
Perkins said Hand will make an excellent coach, and said sports teach kids valuable life lessons and responsibility.
Hand said his goal is to finish the season winning three-quarters of their games or more.
“I just enjoy this sport and the kids, especially when they have good attitudes,” Hand said. “If you see a six-man football game — Dayville/Monument or Prairie City — on the schedule, come and see. It’s going to be a blast!”
2018 Dayville/Monument Tigers football schedule
Aug. 31: vs. Prairie City in Dayville at 1 p.m.
Sept. 7: vs. Echo in Monument at 1 p.m.
Sept. 14: @ Joseph at 6 p.m.
Sept. 21: @ Harper at 12 p.m. (MT)
Sept. 28: @ Mitchell/Spray/Wheeler in Spray at 2 p.m.
Oct. 5: @ McKenzie at 7 p.m.
Oct. 12: vs. South Wasco County in Monument at 1 p.m.
Oct. 19: vs. Huntington in Dayville at 1 p.m.
Oct. 26: @ Burnt River at 1 p.m.