Danbury makes the move to 8-man football

BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR

An end to a chapter.  And the beginning of another one.

Danbury High School has decided to make the switch from “regular” football to 8-man football. The school board voted 4-1 to officially make the switch for the 2020 season.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t a very difficult decision for Danbury football coach Keith Mora, who also serves as the school’s athletic director. He talked about the choice he felt needed to be made.

“It really wasn’t that hard (of a decision to make). The hard part is for people to look at the change and realize that it’s not that different. I believe some people thought it might’ve been a decision based on this year, but it wasn’t. A couple years ago, this wouldn’t have been an option,” said Mora.

“We’re doing it because there are other schools out there for us to play. It makes sense. There’s no one closer to our program who knows what is going on with the program. There’s no one person who knows more about the program that the head coach/athletic director. I’ve looked at our (enrollment) numbers down to kindergarten.

“I talked to our kids, and our leadership group. All the kids seemed to get it, too. It didn’t seem like it was me trying to talk them into something. They see the opportunities ahead of them, and it makes a lot of sense. It gives us the best chance to keep our program around and is the safest things for our kids.”

It’s a process that was in its infancy two years ago.

“About a year-and-a-half to two years ago, I started looking into some things with our program. The three focus areas were (1) safety; (2) program longevity; and (3) opportunities for success. The most important thing is we are doing things that keep our kids safe,” said Mora. “From there, you want to look at numbers and ask yourself, ‘Can we sustain what we’re doing long-term?’ Kids that are interested in football in general, there’s a decline in those types of kids. Do you have the types of kids that can play a lineman position for the next few years? The last thing was the opportunity for success. We want level the playing field (by) playing schools that were more similar to our size.”

The Lakers will be joining the Northern 8 Football Conference, which includes Toledo Christian, Holgate and Stryker. St. Mary Central Catholic, who played 8-man football this year, could join the conference, too. Two other 8-man football schools in Ohio are Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans and Ashtabula St. John’s.

“I think our decision will take a little bit to have a ripple effect. It’s a direction that people are ready for, I believe. I think people just need to see schools make the jump,” said Mora. “I think it’s great for small-school football. I hope the dominos start to fall.”

Mora said the feedback he’s gotten from people in the community has been constructive.

“Generally speaking, it’s been very positive. The people that are close to our program and are attending the games get it and are supportive of it,” he said. “The change is difficult for some people. It’s going to take seeing it out on the field, (and) it’s really not all that different. There are three less players on the field, and sidelines are moved in a little bit.”

Mora encourages any skeptics to keep an open mind.

“It’s something that is best for our kids long-term. I’m not trying to negatively affect tradition,” said Mora. “I’m also in a position where I have to do what’s best for the kids in our (school). I think it’s something that people could be very excited about.”

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